Senate IDC Plan Includes Tax Breaks for Tuition Savings, Expanded Maternity Pay

By Teri Weaver |

Syracuse, N.Y. - The breakaway New York Senate Democrats today introduced a set of tax relief proposals aimed at middle-class families and seniors, joining the chorus of elected officials in Albany aiming to use an expected surplus to cut taxes next year.

The package, called "Affordable NY Plan," adds to proposals already announced from other Albany lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo about how an estimated $2 billion surplus might be spent on tax breaks in the 2014-2015 state budget.

So far, Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have announced their tax-relief ideas - including a property-tax freeze and scaling back corporation and estate taxes. The governor and lawmakers will begin their negotiations in 2014 - an election year for both branches.

Sen. David Valesky, D-Oneida, said the proposals from the Independent Democratic Conference contain the most tax relief for the widest cross-section of the middle class. Their ideas include expanding maternity pay for mothers and fathers, helping New York college graduates buy their first homes, and cutting $300 "utility relief checks" for seniors.

"In our proposal, the greatest number of people would receive some form of relief," Valesky said today in his Syracuse office. "I am confident that in our plan there is something for everyone."

Valesky said the costs of the IDC plan would be "well within" the $2 billion estimated surplus, probably closer to $1 billion or $1.5 billion for the entire package.

Valesky also said the IDC has not ruled out other tax-relief ideas from others, including those from the governor and Senate Republicans.

The IDC package includes:

•Expanding maternity leave pay for parents and/or primary caregivers. Right now, the state guarantees workers up to $170 a week for six weeks. Under the IDC's plan, that would expand to $450 a week.

•Creating a new Working Families Child Care Tax Credit of up to $1,000 per tax filer. The proposal could help 200,000 families get 15 percent of their child care costs credited on their income returns.

•Expanding the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program, also known as EPIC.

•Providing seniors with $300 in "utility relief checks."

•Giving college graduates who stay in New York an annual tax credit of up to $5,000 to use for a down payment on their first home.

•Tackling college tuition costs by doubling current limits on college savings accounts and making up to $20,000 in college savings tax deductible.

•Allowing contributions to public and private schools to be tax deductible.