May 23, 2017 03:04 PM

Private school families may be breathing a sigh of relief after legislation to repeal income tax credits and deductions for families with children attending nonpublic schools hit a roadblock in the House Ways and Means Committee.

House Bill 202 by Rep. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, was deferred by committee vote Monday, and likely will not reappear during this session. Abraham’s measure proposed cancelling income tax credits and deductions available to families with students enrolled in private elementary and secondary schools.

Under the existing programs, families are eligible for an $18 tax credit per enrolled child per year and can deduct up to $5,000 in tuition and fees from their taxable income annually.

Abraham said that amounts to roughly $35 million in lost revenue for the state which, he said, would be better spent supporting job training programs Louisiana’s two- and four-year colleges.

“I just so happen to believe that these dollars make more sense as a return on investment than the $200 that your child would get for attending a private school. It’s just a question of priorities.”

Abraham authored a complementary bill, House Bill 184, to provide for the creation of the Louisiana Jobs Now fund to bolster STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs and certificate programs using funds originally tied to the private school tax credit and deduction. That bill is up for consideration on the House floor.

Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops Executive Director Rob Tasman said creating jobs to spur the economy was a noble cause, but Abraham’s legislation wanted to take money from the wrong pot.

Many hard-working families put their children through private schools while also paying taxes to support their public schools, he said. It’s presumptuous to assume what the cost savings mean to private school families, Tasman argued, and the money recouped from the state can make a difference for families paying fees and additional school costs.

“I can’t help but feel like it’s pickpocketing parents who choose to send their children to nonpublic schools.”

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