March 16, 2010

Tax credits for private schools may survive Senate objections

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By Nick DiMarco
Nick@MarylandReporter.com

A proposal to grant tax credits for corporate donations to private schools survived back-to-back attempts to weaken it in the Senate and is expected to come up for a final vote in that chamber this week.

Opponents offered amendments to limit the amount covered by the tax credit. The proposed limit for contributions counted toward the credit is $200,000.

On Friday, the Senate voted 30-15 to reject an attempt to limit the credit to $10,000, sponsored by Sen. Nathaniel Exum, D-Prince George’s. On Monday night, Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City, offered a more moderate amendment that would reduce the tax credit by 25 percent of a maximum donation of $100,000.

“It’s obvious we have an economic crisis here and we keep sending bills to the floor with huge fiscal notes. To me, it doesn’t make sense,” said Conway. Her amendments were rejected 30 to 17.

Sen. James DeGrange, D-Anne Arundel, the lead sponsor, said similar objections to the cost of the legislation were raised two years ago on an identical measure that passed the Senate but never got a vote in a House committee.

“It’s nothing that wasn’t unexpected,” DeGrange said.

If the bill passed, it wouldn’t cost anything next year, but could become costly down the road. The tax credit is contingent on an amount of money appropriated by the governor, but there is nothing put aside for fiscal 2011.

The identical House bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee Wednesday.

Conway said with confidence that the bill will not pass in the House.

“I think it’s a dead bill but the principle is that we continue to bring it up,” Conway said.