NEWS: Brewer Vetoes Second Try at Tuition Tax-credit

From Arizona Central:

Citing worries about creating new budget holes for the state, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Wednesday a second effort at expanding private school tuition tax credits, raising the likelihood of a special legislative session.

By rejecting Senate Bill 1186, Brewer also torpedoed most of a 140-page bill that made technical changes to other state tax provisions, among them the job-creation package passed earlier this year and matters affecting the Yavapai County Fair. In a letter explaining her veto, Brewer noted that the private school tax credits were “rushed” and out of place in a bill that should have been a formality.

“Contrary to historic legislative custom, this important bill was amended to include substantive policy changes,” she wrote. “One of these changes included a rushed effort in conference committee to revive a portion of the private school tuition tax credit bill I had vetoed only a week earlier. Ultimately, the bill fails to accomplish the stated intent of being revenue positive.”

Led by Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, lawmakers added an 11th-hour amendment to the bill that would have expanded the tax credits by up to 50 percent. The amendment was similar to House Bill 2581, which Brewer also vetoed, but would have allowed the extra cash donations to go to school tuition organizations certified to offer scholarships to lower-income students who must be switching from public to private schools.

The changes helped bring down the estimated loss to the general fund, from $16.8 million to $9 million. But the amendment also contained a technical glitch that may not have required tuition organizations to spend the extra donations under the more restrictive, income-based rules. The cost estimate assumed the requirement was in place.

Yarbrough, who operates the largest tuition organization in the state, said last week that the problem would be corrected in future legislation and said other organizations were promising not to abuse the apparent loophole. He could not be reached for comment.

Elizabeth Dreckman, president of the Arizona School Choice Trust, said she was disappointed by the veto.

“We have over 20,000 kids on waiting lists of the scholarship organizations,” Dreckman said. “Both this and the bill she vetoed before would probably have helped us get scholarships for those kids.”

Dreckman said she wasn’t sure whether they would try again with similar measures next year.

“We tried to address (Brewer’s) concerns but she hasn’t been willing to sit down and talk about a solution,” she said. “Many of the groups that support this tried to get down there and meet with her and her office really wasn’t responsive.”

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