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Thursday, February 10, 2011

No slam dunk for private school tax credits

Posted by on Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 2:24 PM

With the GOP controlling the state legislature, House Majority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam's bill laying out $2,500 tax credits for families who sent their kid to private school might seem like easy legislation to pass. Especially since it only applies to families making less than $100,000 a year.

Legislative support for this bill has been assumed to the point that attention has turned to whether or not the House and Senate will be able to override an eventual gubernatorial veto on the bill.

But not so fast. The bill is in committee, and will make it to the House floor for a vote, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis said today. But Tillis also noted that the scope of Stam's bill is different than a similar tuition tax credit bill last year, and that the scope will be discussed.

Tillis, addressing my question on the bill today during a press conference, then moved to other questions without elaborating.

If the bill clears the House, it heads to the Senate, where state Sen. Tom Apodaca chairs the rules committee. He is, as The News & Observer puts it, "the person who helps decide where bills go — whether they live or die."

And here's what Apodaca said about Stam's bill earlier this week:

"I don't know how far that's going to go. ... It hasn't crossed my radar. Not like the Charter Schools (bill)."
That doesn't sound very promising, though today Apodaca said it's "too early to say" whether the Senate will support Stam's bill since "we haven't even talked about it."

Stam confirmed that, saying he hasn't pitched the bill to senators.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said he'd wait to see "if it comes out of the House," and noted that he has "in the past been supportive of scholarships in limited circumstances." But that means scholarships for at-risk students, not a broader tax credit that many public school supporters see as a nose-under-the-tent measure meant to pave the way for full-blown private school vouchers.

So it is indeed to early to tell on this measure, but the lack of full-throated leadership support on an issue that is generally a hallmark of Republican education policy is worth noting.

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