Friday, January 21, 2011
NY: Furor at budget's $18M for 'rabbis'
ALBANY -- What chutzpah!
An $18 million tuition subsidy devised by Gov. Paterson as a political gift to the city's Orthodox Jewish community has emerged as an 11th-hour sticking point in budget talks, The Post has learned.
The unprecedented expansion of the state's Tuition Assistance Program - derisively dubbed "Rabbi TAP" by frustrated budget negotiators -- guarantees grants of up to $5,000 a year to at least 3,660 students at a few dozen rabbinical schools in the city and suburbs.
Paterson slipped the program into his 2010-11 spending plan while he was planning to run for election and desperately courting political support from the Orthodox. The controversy comes at a time when he's demanding massive cuts to public colleges and universities.
The Assembly is seeking to kill the program, sources said. That has sparked a clash with Senate Finance Chairman Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), who calls the subsidy a "must have."
"Obviously, it's totally inappropriate to advance a significant new program, when we're cutting SUNY, when we're cutting CUNY, when we're cutting community colleges," said Assembly Higher Education Chairwoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan).
Students at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan, a non-religious private school, would also be eligible for TAP, thanks to tortured legislative language used in an attempt to ensure it passes constitutional muster.
Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook said the program was intended to "create parity" in aid for rabbinical students.