Legislation to give parents up to $5,000 in income tax deductions for each child in a private or parochial school easily gained final approval on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 13, which heads to the governor’s desk for his signature, would remove the 50 percent cap on the amount that can be deducted, allowing a maximum tax deduction of $5,000 per child.
The House approved SB13 on an 80-14 vote, despite complaints that the bill increases the state’s level of tax credits and exemptions at a time when state government is struggling financially.
“It seems like we’re adding more tax credits and special interests,” said state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge. “That’s what we already have a problem with in this state.”
Critics also have argued that increased aid for private school tuition further weakens Louisiana’s struggling public school system.
Republican state Rep. Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings, countered that SB13 is one of the few instances of helping individuals.
“It’s not corporate directed, and it goes back to the Louisiana citizen,” Guinn said.
The legislation essentially increases the amount of taxpayers’ dollars going toward paying tuition for students at private, parochial and university laboratory schools.
The original deduction approved in 2008, which was sponsored by state Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, was estimated to cost the state more than $100 million over its first five years.
SB13 by Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, is expected to cost the state about $5.3 million more per year, or more than $26 million over five years.
Assuming a private or parochial school has a $5,000 annual tuition, a parent could have received up to a $2,500 deduction the past three years.
But SB13 allows the full $5,000 to be deducted.
However, if the tuition is $10,000, a parent still would not be able to exceed a $5,000 credit.
The break would take effect on Jan. 1.
In 2009, parents claimed the tuition deduction for 76,900 children, the first year the deduction was offered.
The average deduction was $3,186 per child.
The Louisiana Family Forum, which says it promotes traditional family values, endorsed the measure.
Opposition came from the Louisiana School Boards Association, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators.
Marionneaux, who also is attempting to repeal the state’s personal income tax this legislative session, has mostly derided the state’s numerous tax credits, rebates and exemptions.
Marionneaux has frequently said the state has $7.1 billion in tax breaks, most of which benefit business.
But he has compared SB13 as a “minuscule” addition that helps working families.