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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Here's the status on the "Scholarship Tax Credit" bill

The 2019 Kentucky General Assembly has five days left until adjournment of their short session to complete the business of the Commonwealth this year and with each passing day the chances are becoming slimmer for any bill to get fast-tracked.

One of the more contentious bills is still held up in committee, but it is not for a lack of discussion.

Kentucky House Bill 205, known as the "Scholarship Tax Credit bill", would create a private school scholarship tax credit program in Kentucky.

All 17 NKY Superintendents pose for a picture after a press conference Monday. They, along with all 173 superintendents across the state, oppose HB 205. 

Under the program, dollar-for-dollar tax breaks would be used as an incentive for individuals and organizations to donate to private school scholarship programs. Kentuckians could receive $25 million in credits available each year on a first-come, first-served basis.

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The bill has been read twice in the House Appropriations and Revenue committee, but the committee did not take a vote on the bill. Doing that and passing it from that committee, would ensure the bill could advance as a stand-alone bill. The bill's sponsor, Bam Carney (R-Campbellsville) said he prefers that route. He told reporters he wants the bill to "stand on its own merits."

HB 205 is not on the legislative agenda for Thursday, March 7.

Last year, the passage of pension reform was tucked inside of another bill, known as the sewer bill, in the final days of the legislative session, leaving some constituents on edge that this bill could be delivered in a similar manner.

Sponsors of the HB 205 are Carney, Chad McCoy (R-Nelson), Adam Koenig (R-Boone/Kenton), Sal Santoro (R-Boone), Jerry T. Miller (R-Jefferson, Oldham), David Osborne (R-Oldham), Walker Thomas (R-Christian, Trigg), Kevin Bratcher (R-Jefferson) Richard Heath (R-Graves, McCracken).

Carney said he believes the legislation requires 60 votes in the House, not just a simple majority. He told reporters he didn't have enough votes to feel confident moving the bill forward yet.

"It will be difficult to get to that mark," he said.

Currently the House Republicans hold 61 seats to the House Democrats' 39.

Members of the House A&R Committee consists of 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

The members of that committee are: Steven Rudy, Chair, (R), Phillip Pratt, Vice Chair (R), Lynn Bechler (R), Danny Bentley - (R), Myron Dossett - (R), Joseph M. Fischer - (R), Kelly Flood - (D), Jim Glenn - (D), David Hale - (R), Mark Hart - (R), Angie Hatton - (D), Dennis Keene - (D), Russ A. Meyer - (D), Jason Nemes - (R), Ruth Ann Palumbo - (D), Melinda Gibbons Prunty - (R), Brandon Reed - (R), Steve Riley - (D), Sal Santoro - (R), John Sims Jr - (D), Jim Stewart III - (R), Wilson Stone - (D), James Tipton - (R), Susan Westrom - (D).

The Legislative Research Commission has estimated the program could cost the state up to $50 million by its fourth year of implementation, but proponents of the bill tout the office of the state budget director's analysis, which states the bill would actually save the state money in the long run.

The bills' opponents dismissed that rationale, stating that fixed costs are not factored into that assessment. All 173 district superintendents, have voiced opposition to the bill, which they say would drain money from the state's revenues and ultimately hurt public schools.

Supporters argue that HB 205 gives more Kentucky families the ability to choose schools that best fit their children's needs.

On Monday, March 4, all 17 northern Kentucky superintendents held a press conference stating their opposition to the bill at the  Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services headquarters in Cold Spring.

RELATED: All NKY Superintendents Speak Out on Scholarship Tax Bill 

In Fort Thomas, Fort Thomas Independent Schools anticipates at least a $128,000 reduction in their funding the first year, with that increasing each year.

Fort Thomas Matters has reached out to Rep. Joe Fischer and Sen. Wil Schroder who represent Fort Thomas, but as of time of publication has not heard back. 

Fischer sits on the House A&R committee, where the bill currently rests.

The Kentucky chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, has identified HB 205 as the group's "top education priority" this legislative session.

Gov. Matt Bevin has come out in support of HB 205 and said he would sign the legislation in a "heartbeat" if it makes its way to his desk.

HB 205, Bill History:

Monday, March 4, 2019 - returned to Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Monday, March 4, 2019 - 2nd reading

Monday, March 4, 2019 - taken from Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Friday, March 1, 2019 - returned to Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Friday, March 1, 2019 - 1st reading

Friday, March 1, 2019 - taken from Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - posted in committee

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 - to Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 - introduced in House

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