Taxpayers Argue Against Private School Tax Credits

, Daily Report


It was a tough day at the Georgia Supreme Court for a challenge to a private school tuition tax credit program.

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What's being said

  • Steve Pepper

    I agree with Tom Stubbs. justice Nahmias‘s argument seems to be form over substance. If the funds are "private" funds, what is the rationale for limiting the amount of available tax credits to $58 million? Why shouldn‘t there be an unlimited amount of "private" fund contributions to student scholarship organizations that qualify for the tax credit? The answer is that these "private" funds are actually state funds that indirectly come from the state‘s treasury in that they reduce revenue that would otherwise be available to the state. The entire program is a ruse to allow state funds to be used to support private, often religious, education and thereby violate the Georgia Constitution.

  • Tom Stubbs

    Justin Nahmias‘s contention that a tax credit is somehow not to be treated as an expenditure of tax dollars is illogical and dangerous. Tax laws are created at the federal, state and local level to produce a baseline of revenue. Legislators then dispense that revenue either through direct expenditures or tax breaks. The government‘s financial scoring of an expenditure or a tax break is no different; both are treated in exactly the same way (increasing the government deficit or reducing its surplus), with neither being possible unless revenue has been raised somewhere else from taxpayers. Indeed, the low income tax credit at the federal level is considered one of the most powerful anti-poverty programs ever implemented. The illogic of Justice Nahmias‘s contention is shown by the fact that, in the extreme, revenue could be collected by an income tax, and all of it could be expended by dispensing tax breaks. Would none of those breaks be subject to constitutional scrutiny? By treating a tax break as NOT an expenditure, Nahmias gives away the game. He renders every expenditure made via a tax break immune from constitutional control. This has disastrous implications. Legislators now know that, at least as far as that justice is concerned, they simply need to award (even refundable) tax credits to a group -- such as a church -- to whom a direct expenditure would be unconstitutional. Bumper sticker lines as the Justice declared that anyone who disagreed with him must believe that the government controls all of our money is more suited for shallow partisan puffery than an argument before the Supreme Court. Recognizing that a tax break and an expenditure a two sides of the same coin, both ways a legislature financially supports a program, is not a question of partisanship. It is simply the only logical way to view public spending, all of which should be subject to the edicts of our constitution. The Justice‘s illogical approach will undermine the protections taxpayers are supposed to have to prevent legislators from spending their hard earned money unconstitutionally.

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