Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation Wednesday to allow individuals to divert more money they would otherwise owe the state to instead help children attend private and parochial schools.
Current law gives individuals a dollar-for-dollar income tax credit of up to $503 for money donated to organizations that provide scholarships to help pay the tuition of students at these schools. But Sen. Rick Murphy said the more than $43 million diverted in 2010 was not enough to aid all youngsters who want to go to private and parochial schools. This new law sets up a second set of tax credits to generate more cash for those scholarships. But since Brewer did not want to cut tax revenues further, the proceeds from this one are generally limited to students who switch from public schools. Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said that made it acceptable.
"Obviously the state would get some savings from that," said Benson. "So as far as the governor's budget, experts can tell the impact, the cost of this law will be pretty limited. It looks like a few million dollars, likely even less than that."
Even with that revenue-neutral estimate, foes pointed out much of the money winds up being diverted to schools that can discriminate on who they admit based on religion. Benson said that does not bother the governor.
"We have some 5,000 kids in this state who are trapped in institutions, trapped in schools where they don't want to attend, where they'd like to go someplace else," he said. "If this law can address in some way shrinking that waiting list, then it's a good thing."