More than 30,000 Capital Region families will receive a controversial $350 rebate check next year.
The state budget that went into effect April 1 includes $375 million in tax relief for families with an income between $40,000 and $300,000. Families must have filed at least two years of state taxes and claimed at least one dependent to be eligible for the rebate, which is good for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
A breakdown of the number of eligible people by county in the Capital Region is available on the Capital Region Scene blog.
State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said the credit isn’t perfect but he was pleased to see relief for working families. If he had his druthers, the state budget would have included the Senate Republicans’ Family Tax Relief Act, which increased the dependent exemption, the dependent care credit and the child tax credit.
Some of those credits hadn’t been updated in years, he said, explaining the broad scope of the initial proposal. He described the final credit as the product of budget negotiations.
State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmooon, said anytime the state can return money to taxpayers, it is a good thing. “The rebate check is simply a down payment on long-term tax relief,” she said.
Critics of the credit, like Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, called it a “political ploy.”
“We cannot provide adequate funding to persons with disabilities or to our schools if we engage in budget gimmickry like the $350 rebate,” Steck said, noting that the money was not in the Assembly’s initial budget resolution.
“[It] doesn’t represent real tax reform,” he added.
Also raising controversy was the $300,000 income ceiling for the credit, which was criticized by the spokesman for state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, who supported the rebate.
“She would have preferred that more middle-class families, as well as seniors on fixed incomes, were included in the rebate,” Tkaczyk spokesman Jim Plastiras said. “Rather than providing rebates to families earning $300,000, she would have preferred to see that money go to other needs, especially restoring the budget cuts for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.”
Seward noted that the wide window of eligibility stems from the varying costs of living across the state, with downstate and Long Island having a higher cost of living than upstate New York. “It’s reflective of different salary levels,” he said.
Some Senate Democrats also questioned whether the lower threshold for the credit was too high, arguing that families making less than $40,000 a year also need help. State Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, who helped negotiate the final budget, countered during budget debates that families making less than $40,000 don’t pay state taxes, so a rebate wouldn’t apply to them.
The first round of rebate checks will be sent out by Oct. 15, 2014, shortly before Election Day.
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