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CO: Democrats Ditch Education Tax Credit Bill

Colorado Democrats couldn’t wait until National School Choice Week to kill the latest education tax credit proposal.

On Wednesday, January 22, a 3-2 party-line committee vote marked the end for Senate Bill 33 — a proposal to create a limited tax credit for private school tuition or home school expenses. Tax credits provide a stronger financial incentive by removing the specified amount paid on qualifying expenses from a person’s tax liability.

Democratic Senate President Morgan Carroll assigned the school choice measure to the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, more commonly known as the “kill committee.”

Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) expressed doubt that SB 33 would do enough to help low-income families, who she said would be left behind as more affluent families used the tax credit to exercise choice. “I am concerned that this will result in the resegregation of our schools between those who have and those who have not,” she said.

Testifying before the five-legislator panel, Natalie Hattenbach made a strong philosophical case for SB 33. “As parents, we are our children’s best advocates, and I think we are the ones who make the best decisions for their education,” said the self-identified mother of three.

Legislative sponsor Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) noted that his proposal not only would empower more families but also that it was “constructed to provide a positive cash flow to the state.”

Under SB 33, a family’s tax credit for full-time private tuition costs could not be more than half the state’s average per-pupil amount. While revenues to the treasury would decline, the official fiscal note showed that over time the limited credit amount would reduce state spending even more for each student who exercised an educational option outside the public system.

Still, Democrats on the committee were unconvinced. “I think it will actually detract from the funding of our public schools,” said Sen. Matt Jones (D-Louisville).

One of Lundberg’s fellow Republican veteran legislators made an impassioned plea as the debate closed.

“Not only is it morally correct to pass this bill for the families that need these resources,” said Sen. Ted Harvey. “But it’s also morally correct for us as the stewards of the tax dollars of the state of Colorado to pass this bill for future generations of legislators who are going to have to deal with the budget shortfalls we’ll see coming forward.”

The plea fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, hundreds of celebrations for the fourth annual School Choice Week (January 26-February 1) continue on.

Ben DeGrow

Ben DeGrow is co-editor of Watchdog Wire - Colorado. Contact him at Colorado@WatchdogWire.com to learn how to get involved with citizen journalism in the Boulder State. Follow him on Twitter: @bendegrow

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