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Throughout the course of each legislative session, I often become engaged in legislation that is brought by other State Senators. From time to time I become aware of this legislation by visiting with my colleagues or by hearing from constituents. As I learn about bills that are of interest to my constituents, I may investigate them further, and if it is a piece of legislation I am supportive of, I will sign onto the legislation.
One of those bills is LB 670, a bill to adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act and to provide for tax credits, which was introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn. Under LB 670, individual and corporate taxpayers would qualify for a non-refundable tax credit equal to the amount the taxpayer contributed to a scholarship-granting organization.
The act would prohibit any taxpayer from receiving tax credits in an amount exceeding 50% of their state income tax liability and that each nonprofit, scholarship-granting organization certified by the State must provide scholarships to eligible students to attend a qualified, nonprofit, private elementary or secondary school. For a student to be qualified, they must be a dependent member of a household that has a gross income which does not exceed two times the required level for the federal reduced-price lunch program.
For calendar year 2020, the amount of tax credits available is capped at ten million dollars, but each year thereafter, the cap will increase incrementally. The ten million dollar nonrefundable income tax credit does not, and will not, reduce state appropriations to our schools.
I want to be clear, I am extremely pro-education. I fully support our state’s public schools, private schools, parochial schools, our community colleges, our state college system, the University of Nebraska system, and our State’s private colleges. A good education is a good education whether you receive it at Emmanuel-faith Lutheran School in York or at Osceloa Middle School.
Nebraska taxpayers spend approximately $3.67 billion dollars on Pre-K-12 education each year to educate approximately 312,635 students and there are currently approximately about 38,000 students enrolled in private schools statewide. The individuals who enroll their children in private schools pay both tuition to private schools and their property taxes which helps fund our public schools.
I fully believe these individuals who are in support of LB 670 are not asking for a lot in the grand scheme of things. LB 670 would allow the parents of underserved children in our state to have a choice on where to educate their children. I believe that ten million dollars, equivalent to 2.7% of the $3.67 billion dollars spent on education, is not a huge ask to give children a hand up.
With tightening education budgets and a property tax crisis in our state, I fully support offering parents and children additional choices on where they receive their education. I shudder to think that if our private schools in this state would close, forcing those 38,000 students to enter the public school system. Would our local communities across the state be able to afford to educate these students?
LB 670, as amended, was advanced from the Revenue Committee on a vote of 5 ayes, 2 nays, and 1 present not voting on April 11, 2019. The amendment proposed by the Revenue Committee limits the maximum scholarship amount awarded to any student to the cost of tuition and fees of the qualified school and that the average scholarship amount awarded per student does not exceed 75% of the statewide average expenditures per formula student. I look forward to standing in support of the bill when it is scheduled for debate by the full Legislature.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.