NEW YORK — Labor, business and religious leaders assembled March 10 in New York to urge state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve an investment tax credit that would benefit schools and students.

The bill would increase charitable donations to public schools and scholarships for students from low-income and working families who attend Catholic and other private schools.

"The time to pass this bill is now," said New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan during a news conference at Cathedral High School. "With the support of so many of our state's great labor unions and business leaders, and so many of my brothers and sisters in ministry, I think we have a great chance to do so."

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn described the bill as a top priority for the state's Catholic bishops, stressing that good schools "lift children out of poverty, and give them a chance."

"It is time to stop playing politics with the families of our state, and time to pass this necessary bill," he said, adding that he was "grateful for the courage of so many of our union leaders for standing up for their members who have children in nonpublic schools."

The Education Investment Tax Credit would create a new tax credit for those who wish to make a charitable donation for educational purposes to public schools, school districts and teacher-driven projects or to scholarships to help low- and middle-income students attend religious and other tuition-based schools.

Under the measure, it is expected donations would grow to $300 million per year, divided evenly between public school needs and student scholarships.

More than 55 civic, community, labor, educational and faith organizations support the bill, which has been proposed to address shortfalls caused by education budget cuts and closures of Catholic and other parochial schools around the state.