N.H. Dems push to eliminate tax credits for private school scholarships

Monitor staff
Published: 3/13/2019 6:15:59 PM

Since 2012, New Hampshire has offered companies a deal: contribute to a fund to help low-income families pay private school tuition, and receive tax credits in return.

On Wednesday, that state program, long praised and denounced for its support of alternative education, received a blow after a House committee voted to end it entirely.

In a 10-9 partisan vote, the House Ways and Means Committee moved to recommend the passage of House Bill 632, which would phase out the tax credit program and terminate it by 2021.

Democrats have said the program deprives the state’s coffers of tax revenue that otherwise would have gone to public schools. And they’ve raised objections to the flow of the money to religious schools, some of which have policies that discriminate against certain students.

But Republicans have long held the program up as a model of how to provide education options for low income children, some of whom are bullied in public school or don’t see their learning needs met. About 400 children currently benefit from the scholarships under the program, which are managed through private organizations that take in the donations.

Thursday’s committee hearing followed a sprawling, two-part hearing last week in which students and parents who benefit from the scholarships showed up to testify on their experiences. The bill will head to a vote on the House floor next week.

Thumbs up for sports betting

The Ways and Means committee also gave the green light for legalized sports betting, an initiative pushed by the governor to help bring in tax revenue to the state.

Voting 17-2, the committee passed House Bill 480 handily. The bill would allow the Lottery Commission to operate a “sports book,” contracting with businesses looking to operate locations.

Towns and municipalities would get the ultimate say over whether to allow the betting locations in. But the bill would also legalize online sports betting for those over 18.

The Lottery Commission estimated that the bill could bring in anywhere from $2.7 to $13.5 million in tax revenue by 2023, minus about $800,000 in yearly expenses.

The bill’s advocates said it would allow the state to capitalize on the illegal sports betting activity that already exists.

Others who voted yes said they were less excited about the means than the end result: more money to run the state.

“As chair occasionally I have voted for things I did not want to vote for, that produce gambling revenue that people should be putting into savings investing in the future,” said committee chairwoman Susan Almy, a Lebanon Democrat. “But we need the revenue, and I’m gonna swallow hard.”

Both bills will head to a vote on the House floor next week.

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