Capitol Views: Panel backs rebates for public school donors

If the state is going to offer rebates to donations for private school tuition, it only seemed fair to offer a similar break for contributions to public schools. The House Ways & Means Committee passed along House Bill 1106 today, which would give a rebate worth 75% of the donation to an “F”-rated school and 50% for gifts to a “D”-rated school.

The bill by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, was filed in response to a bill that would give rebates on contributions to nonprofit organizations offering private school scholarships to low-income public school students. That bill is in conference committee.

“We felt it was something we could do for public schools,” said committee chairman Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette. The measure was amended to specify donations be used for instructional materials, tutorial programs, in-school childcare programs or remediation programs for failing schools.

The bill passed without objection.

“I wish you would hear all my bills,” Jackson told the committee.

—With a shakily balanced budget bill that will probably lose more revenue, the House Appropriations Committee is not a happy place to serve this year. Where the money is, instead, is the so-called capital outlay bill, which House Ways & Means Committee members got their first look at today. HB 2 contains $350 million in borrowing authority to be used for construction or acquisition projects, either new or ongoing. That represents a fraction of the $3.97 billion in requested funding, according to administration officials. The administration put the project list together, but negotiations continue over how much, if any, projects will be added by the House and the Senate, according to Chairman Robideaux.

—Before the budget bill can begin moving, legislators await the latest revenue projections, likely downward, from the Revenue Estimating Conference. But with one member, LSU economics professor Jim Richardson, still recovering from heart surgery, the REC awaits passage of a bill to provide for a designee to replace him. Senate Bill 640 passed the House today, with one amendment, which the Senate can concur in and send to the governor’s desk. That could set a REC meeting as early as next week, when the latest corporate income tax collection figures are available. So far, sluggish tax collections are expected to come in below the projected $350 million revenue growth for fiscal year 2013, by as much as $200 million, leaving the administration and lawmakers with more cuts to make.

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