Opponents Fail to Dilute Minnesota Tax Credits

Opponents Fail to Dilute Minnesota Tax Credits
May 1, 1998

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)

The Minnesota legislature adjourned on April 9 without passing any of the three bills that threatened to dilute the state's new tax credit and expanded tax deduction for educational expenses.

Staving off those threats was a significant victory not only for Minnesota, but also for the national school choice movement, according to Kristin J. Robbins, executive director of Minnesotans for School Choice.

"If we had lost ground this year, it would have made legislators in other states who are considering this model afraid to take the political risks necessary to pass the legislation," she said. "Why should they make the tough vote if the program could be easily overturned a year later?"

A loss also would have handed the unions a weapon to scare off nongovernment schools who might otherwise support tax credits, she added. The imposition of state mandates would have allowed the unions to claim that tax credits "inevitably" lead to state regulation of private schools.

The new refundable education tax credit for lower-income Minnesota families was signed into law by Republican Governor Arne H. Carlson last June 30. Rather than attempting to repeal the reform, opponents introduced three bills that would have eroded support for the tax credit/deduction.

Two of the bills would have imposed new state regulations on any nongovernment school that accepted students whose families claimed the tax credit or the tax deduction. One would have imposed state admission and dismissal policies, while the other would have imposed state graduation requirements, including the Outcome-Based Education "Profiles of Learning."

Legislative support for the two proposals waned when advocates were unable to explain why the new regulations were suddenly necessary, when nongovernment schools in the state had been accepting students from families using the tax deduction since 1983.

The third bill, which would have lowered the income level at which households become disqualified for the full tax credit, was defeated in the Tax Committee.

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)