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No go for school supplies tax credit

Freshman Rep. Tom Dore made a spirited pitch but wasn’t able to convince Democrats on the House Finance Committee that it would be a good idea to give parents a tax credit of up to $500 a year for what they spend on school supplies and fees.

After more than an hour of debate, the committee voted 7-5 to kill the Elizabeth Republican’s House Bill 13-1094. All seven committee Democrats opposed the bill; five Republicans supported it.

The measure was one of four education-related tax credit bills introduced so far this year.

“These are real dollars for Colorado’s working families,” Dore told the committee, referring to the money parents have to spend on school supplies, tissues and even for bus trips.

The legislature should say, “We want to give you something back,” he argued.

Some committee Democrats were more concerned about the revenue the bill might take away from the state budget – and schools. A legislative staff analysis estimated passage of the bill would cut state revenues by $19.4 million during this budget year, by $39.9 million in 2013-14 and by $42.6 million in 2014-15. That fiscal note estimated about 500,000 taxpayers a year would take advantage of the credit.

“It seems to me like it would be taking away resources for schools,” said freshman Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora.

Dore, as lawmakers often do when faced with a costly staff analysis, downplayed the fiscal note.

“It’s a guesstimate,” he said, arguing that taxpayers would spend the money they saved on taxes for other consumer goods.

Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, complained because the tax credit would be taken by rich taxpayers and parents who send their kids to private schools.

The back-and-forth dragged on long enough that chair Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, had to interject.

“I’m going to ask the committee members to come up with new questions,” Court said. “I think we’ve beaten a few of these horses to death already.”

Dore’s bill took a different approach than a 2012 measure that proposed a three-day sales tax holiday on school supplies. That bill, somewhat surprisingly, was passed by the House and approved by one Senate committee before dying in a second panel in the session’s closing days.

The other tax credit bills in play this year include:

  • House Bill 13-1151, which proposes a sales tax holiday in August for textbooks sold in college bookstores
  • House Bill 13-1176 and Senate Bill 13-069, both of which propose tax credits for private school tuition and donations for private school scholarships

School resource officers bill advances

More than 750 parents, students, and teachers gathered at the Capitol Feb. 6 in support of online public schools during Cyberschools Day, sponsored by the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families and the Colorado Cyberschools Association.
More than 750 parents, students, and teachers gathered at the Capitol Feb. 6 in support of online public schools during Cyberschools Day, sponsored by the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families and the Colorado Cyberschools Association.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday gave 5-0 approval to Senate Bill 13-138, a somewhat technical measure that would require school resource officers to be fully informed about and integrated into school emergency response plans, safety drills and communications system. (See this staff analysis for more details.)

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Steve King, R-Grant Junction and a tireless advocate for improved school security plans and communications with emergency agencies. The bill now moves to the Senate Education Committee.

For the record

Two other bills of education interest were heard by committees Wednesday, including:

House Bill 13-1040 – House Finance killed this measure, which would have based Public Employees’ Retirement Association pensions on the average of a retiree’s seven highest years of salary. The current base is three years. The hearing had a familiar, ritualistic tone to it, with GOP lawmakers making arguments while PERA’s CEO and retirees opposed it. The measure would have applied only to new employees, not current civil servants or retirees. All Colorado teachers are covered by PERA.

Senate Bill 13-065 – This measure would have allowed local governments, including school boards, to use “approval voting” in nonpartisan elections. Approval voting is a system in which voters may vote for as many candidates as they want. Despite bipartisan sponsorship and endorsements from both Common Cause and GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler, the Senate State Affairs Committee killed the bill on a 3-2 vote.

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