Bill to Provide State Tax Relief for Advances on Private School Scholarships

LINCOLN. Expect another brawl in the Nebraska legislature over the allocation of public funds to private schools.

It was one senator’s prediction after the Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Revenue voted 6-2 on Thursday to push a bill that would set aside at least $25 million a year in tax credit funds for donations to private school scholarships.

31 co-sponsors

The main sponsor of Legislative Bill 753, the Scholarships Act, said she thought she had a “really good” chance of passing the measure this year after four failed attempts in previous sessions.

“I have 31 cosponsors,” said State Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, chairman of the tax committee.

The 49-seat unicameral parliament needs 33 votes to stave off an expected filibuster by public school advocates who see the bill as an obstacle to voucher programs and other measures that divert public funds to private schooling.

Two senators on the committee, Lincoln Senators George Dungan and Eliot Bostar, voted against advancing LB 753.

Dungan said he is philosophically opposed to allocating public funds to private education and is concerned that annual spending on tax credits, which could rise to $100 million a year, is unsustainable and deprives public schools of funds.

“Full Debate”

“I expect a heated debate,” Dungan said, as he has in years past.

Under the committee’s amendments to LB 753, approved Thursday, the maximum amount of tax cuts will be $25 million a year for the first two years and will increase to $100 million if the full amount of the tax credit is used.

An individual or business can receive a tax credit of up to $100,000 per year, which is up to half of their total state income tax. Estates or trusts can donate up to $1 million a year.

Gives underprivileged students a choice

The tax credits will take precedence for low-income students, and Linehan said they cannot be used for existing private or parochial school students, except for those entering high school.

Bostar proposed amending the bill to allow the same tax credit for donations to public school funds. Linehan said she had no objection to this, but it was not included in the proposed bill.

During lengthy legislative hearings on LB 753 last week, proponents of the proposal argued that public schools are not the best answer for every student and that low-income families need help to get the same choice of private education as those with financial resources. facilities. .

Opponents of the bill, however, said it provides for more generous tax credits for such donations than for contributions for other purposes, and that the funds would be better spent helping low-income students in public schools.

DeVos group’s big expenses

Nebraska is one of only two states that does not allocate public funds to private schools. The battle over the issue sparked a spate of spending on state legislatures last year.

A major national school choice organization, the American Children’s Federation, founded by former US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, gave more than $710,000 to the Nebraska affiliate, which contributed $833,000 to eight key state legislative elections, including one involving the Dungans.

This contributed to wins in five of those races. Dungan barely dominated his race.

Linehan’s daughter, Cathy, is the director of public relations for the American Federation of Children.

In comparison, the Nebraska State Educational Association, the state’s teachers’ union, has given more than $150,000 to candidates who support public education. One independent committee, Preserve the Good Life, which receives money from the NSEA, labor unions and other groups, gave similar candidates an additional $300,000.

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