HB 511 tabled: tax credits for private scholarships


THANK YOU to everyone who contacted members of the House Tax Committee. It worked! HB 511 tabled!
UPDATE: HB 511 has been tabled in House Taxation Committee. This is great news! Motion to pass failed 13-7, with all Democrats plus Republican representatives White, Redfield, Custer, Cook and Zolnikov, voting no.
THANK YOU to all committee members who voted against this bad bill!

HB 511 is an income tax credit bill that would permit individual and corporate tax payers to claim tax credits for donations they make to Educational Improvement Organizations and Student Scholarship Organizations. 

HB 511 would be a boon to people like Bozeman tycoon Greg Gianforte, who is on the board of the private religious Petra Academy in Bozeman. HB 511 would pay him to give scholarships to kids who attend his academy.

HB 511 will cost the state plenty in lost revenue: $14 million in the coming biennium. $19 million in the 2019 biennium. And insofar as Student Scholarship Organizations provide scholarships to kids to attend private/sectarian schools, we believe HB 511 violates Article 10.6(1) Montana Constitution that states the following:

“The legislature, counties, cities, towns, school districts, and public corporations shall not make any direct or indirect appropriations or payment from any public fund or monies . . . for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.” 

Bottom line:  HB 511 is a huge, unconstitutional tax expenditure that does nothing whatsoever to enhance quality public education across Montana. Bad policy bill.
Unfortunately HB 511 is only one of four bad policy bills suffering unconstitutional provisions meant to privatize Montana’s k-12 public schools.  See also HB 322, HB 433 and HB 596.  Last session, Governor Bullock vetoed a similar bill, SB 81 (Lewis).

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