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Nebraska lawmakers spar over private school tax credit bill

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 5:48 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers have kicked off a debate on a bill that would indirectly subsidize private schools with a state tax credit for people who donate to private-school scholarship programs.

State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, who put forth LB364, said her goal is to provide tax credits — state dollars — for anyone or any business who donates money for scholarships to private, non-government schools.

Backers pitch the measure as a way to give low-income students more choices if a public school doesn’t meet their needs. But it faces sharp opposition from other lawmakers who say it would divert tax dollars away from K-12 public schools and other priorities.

“We have a dual education system and that many kids are often left behind, the fact of the matter is today. Many of these kids that I represent are still getting Jim Crow math and back of the bus science and that is a fundamental problem for me,” said State Sen. Justin Wayne.

Linehan offered to cap contributions at $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for businesses, even sunsetting the bill after five years — meaning it would need 33 senators to vote to keep the program rolling beyond that time.

“It is about this tax credit and incentivizing philanthropy in a very specific way that really benefits wealthy Nebraskans,” State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha said on the Unicameral floor Wednesday.

Debate was expected to continue into Wednesday evening because of a filibuster.

6 News Producer Chase Moffitt contributed to this report.

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