HARRISBURG – A tax credit program benefiting donors who give toward scholarships for private school tuition would be boosted by $100 million under legislation heading to Gov. Tom Wolf.
The change would almost doubles the amount of tax credits available through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit – from $110 million to $210 million.
The state Senate approved the measure by a 28-21 vote Tuesday.
The state Senate approved the measure by a 28-21 straight party vote Tuesday with all of the chamber's Republicans supporting the measure and all the Democrats opposing it.
Gov. Tom Wolf has not indicated whether he will sign it, but he made clear in comments to reporters Tuesday morning that he is skeptical of the plan, including a provision within it that provides automatic increases in the amount designated for Educational Improvement Tax Credits each year.
"I have done everything in my power and I’ve worked across the aisle to get more money for public education,” Wolf said. “This seems to me, again, I’ll take a look at it, this seems to me to be at odds with that need of a government and a democracy like ours to support broad-based, accessible, public education.”
Republican supporters of the plan, including Senate Majority Leader Jacob Corman, R-Centre County, said the proposal is intended to make school choice more affordable to more people.
“I choose to send my kids to public school,” Corman said. “But we don’t have just one option in Pennsylvania.”
Corman said that if the automatic increases prove t be a problem, lawmakers can also change the law in future years to get rid of it.
The legislation increases the maximum annual household income for scholarship recipients from $85,000 to $95,000.
Democrats in the Senate pointed at the proposed automatic increases along with the higher income eligibility limit in refusing the support the plan.
State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, has been a proponent of school choice proposals, but said he couldn’t support this legislation.
The state’s existing Educational Improvement Tax Credits were intended to help “lift children out of poverty,” Williams said. Changing the income levels to benefit children from more well-off families is intolerable, he said.
“$95,000 is an insult,” Williams said on the Senate floor.