MARYKNOLL, NY – In a peculiar move, embattled Senate candidate Peter Harckham called for a return to power in the Senate Chamber to the individuals who created a state school funding formula which shortchanged public schools statewide by billions of dollars. While holding the majority in 2010, New York City Senators created the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA, to help close New York’s budget deficit. Under the GEA, a portion of the state’s funding was divided among all school districts in the state based on a formula and each district’s state aid was reduced accordingly.
Martha Ruiz Jiménez said, “Peter Harckham is sadly out-of-touch if he is blissfully unaware that the New York City Majority created the school funding shortfall in the first place. Taxpayers aren’t stupid, they remember that during their fruitless stay in the majority, after over-spending by tens of billions of dollars, when hiking taxes by fourteen billion dollars and creating heinous revenue streams like the MTA payroll tax weren’t enough, New York City politicians stole lunch money from the children of Westchester and the Hudson Valley to fund their binge spending addiction.”
Senator Murphy was the sponsor of legislation to statutorily eliminate the GEA, and voted to reduce and eventually eliminate it, even holding up his second budget on the job in 2016 by refusing to vote for it unless it included the elimination of the GEA.
All told, the GEA took more than $142.7 million from schools in the 40th Senate District from 2011 to 2016. Meanwhile, after taking office Murphy was able to fully restore the GEA cuts and increase foundation aid annually, providing $205 million this year alone in foundation aid. In total, area schools saw funding rise to over $700 million dollars in overall school aid during Senator Murphy’s time in office.
The Senator has also worked to take politics out of the formula, shepherding a bill through both houses of the legislature this year to address a section of the state education law which specifically penalizes Westchester county by lumping it into an arbitrary geographic category with Kingston and Monticello, instead of the New York City metropolitan statistical area used by the United States National Center for Education Statistics, which results in more funding for other parts of the state at Westchester’s expense.
“The leader of the Senate Democrats is from Westchester and in twelve years has never lifted a finger to address the flawed regional cost index affecting foundation aid and high-tax aid, which are vital to offset costs to school districts and property taxpayers,” Ruiz Jiménez said. “Why would we trust that if they held the Majority again, things would be any different? The democratic Assembly member from Yonkers has carried the bill passed by Senator Murphy for almost a decade before we came to office, and yet the Democratic senators did nothing to move the bill during what turned out to be, fortunately for us, their very brief stay in the Majority. We did more in six months to help fund education than Peter Harckham has done in his lifetime.”
Minority senators like David Carlucci along with colleagues in the Democratic Assembly such as Sandy Galef voted for at least six state budgets that contained the GEA, even though it was originally sold as a temporary, one-year plan.
The GEA was passed during a time of one party rule and when New York City politicians controlled both houses of the New York State legislature. In addition to the GEA, 124 new taxes were approved costing New York residents an estimated $14 billion including the hated MTA Payroll Tax.