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Friday, April 19, 2013

Senate opts to give tax credit more time to work

CONCORD – The
Republican-led state Senate thwarted a move to repeal an education tax credit, insisting the new law hasn’t had enough time to work.

After 40 minutes of debate, the Senate voted to table the bill 13-11, a rock-solid partisan vote with all 13 Senate Republicans in support and all Democrats in opposition. ...

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CONCORD – The
Republican-led state Senate thwarted a move to repeal an education tax credit, insisting the new law hasn’t had enough time to work.

After 40 minutes of debate, the Senate voted to table the bill 13-11, a rock-solid partisan vote with all 13 Senate Republicans in support and all Democrats in opposition.

The parliamentary move could effectively kill the measure, since it would require at least two Republican senators to change their minds for the Senate to take it up again.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-
Wolfeboro, urged his colleagues against passing the repeal bill that had the backing of the Democratically controlled House of Representatives and Gov. Maggie Hassan.

“Let’s give this a chance. If it doesn’t work, then people can come in and repeal it or amend it,” Bradley said. “We simply don’t have enough information to take such a precipitous vote this would be when we have hundreds of excited parents seeking this opportunity.”

Senate critics maintained the bill was draining money from public schools and the tax credit amounted to unconstitutional support of religious or private schools.

“We know if we peel back the onion and examine the education tax credit, we see its flaws, we see that it’s poor tax policy,” said Sen. Peggy Gilmore, D-Hollis.

The tax credits permit business owners to write off up to 85 percent of what they contribute in scholarships from what they would owe under the Business Profits Tax and Business Enterprise Tax. The credits are limited to no more than $3.4 million next year and $4.1 million in the 2014-15 school year.

The scholarships must be given to students of families that make no more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. That equals about $70,000 a year for a family of four.

In addition, 40 percent of those getting scholarships would have to be parents in the Free or Reduced School Lunch program the state uses as a proxy for low-
income citizens.

The debate got emotional and at times testy.

Sen. David Pierce, D-Hanover, said as someone who had to endure bullying in church, he should not have to subsidize religious schools that are intolerant.

“I, growing up gay, have been at the brunt of that target in religion, being singled out at church; being singled out at Sunday School,” Pierce said. “If they want to tell them that God hates fags and that interracial couples should not be allowed to marry, that is perfectly their religious right to do.”

Those supporting repeal the tax credit had hoped they could win approval in the Senate because two GOP senators, Lempster Sen. Robert Odell and Hampton Sen. Nancy Stiles, had opposed the law when it first passed in 2012. But Odell and Stiles voted against repealing it.

“If the bill is repealed, it restricts the freedom of choice for New Hampshire schoolchildren,” Stiles said.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).