Opposing a tax credit that weakens public education & violates the spirit of our Constitution
At a time when many public schools are struggling, it is deeply troubling that a bill has been voted out of the PA House that diverts state funds to tax credits for corporations and wealthy individuals who contribute to private scholarship funds.
In early May, HB800 was voted out of the House primarily along party lines – with the majority party in favor and the minority party opposed.
HB800 will expand the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program by $100 million per year. HB800 also includes an unprecedented escalator clause that would permit the amount of available credits to increase by 10% each year if at least 90% of the credits were used in the previous year.
Currently, this program provides $160 million in state tax credits, therefore the new total would be $260 million.
HB800 also increased the eligible household income to $95,000.
The EITC program provides almost dollar-for-dollar state tax credits to corporations and wealthy individuals who contribute to private scholarship funds.
What does this mean? And why was I a “no” vote?
Our state constitution is clear that “the general assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the commonwealth.”
By making these EITC credits available, the money that would be paid to the state by these corporations and individuals, and then used for the general fund, is basically diverted. This means that if this bill becomes law, next year more than $260 million that would have gone to the state budget will go instead to tuitions for students to attend private and religious schools.
The General Assembly can never direct those tax dollars because those tax dollars did not reach the general fund. The corporations and individuals using the tax credits made the decision on how those dollars will be spent.
The decision of the corporations and individuals will facilitate the use of those dollars for students to attend private and religious schools; which is contrary to the state constitution.
I was a no vote because I believe this is a clear violation of the state constitution.
In the 194th Legislative District, the constituents in Philadelphia who contacted me were predominately opposed to this legislation and the constituents who contacted me from Lower Merion were in favor of this legislation.
It is well understood that Lower Merion has outstanding public schools and the reason for the advocacy from Lower Merion was to use the credits for religious schools.
In order to ensure a great public education for each and every student, we need to strengthen and expand our commitment for public education.
HB800 sacrifices tax revenues that could otherwise be used for basic public education and this is why I was a no vote.
Voice your concerns! Contact your state senator to tell them what you think (the bill at the time of this writing is in the Senate).
Thoughts? Suggestions? Concerns? Make your voice heard by visiting my office at 6511 Ridge Avenue or calling (215) 482-8726. Walk-ins always welcome.