Friday, February 13, 2009

We're #1! In giving away taxpayer money...

Given the recent statewide outrage over the recent $100-plus million cuts to K-12 and higher education, Arizonans might be startled to know that the state gave away $71.3 million in taxpayer dollars to private schools last fiscal year. These funds paid or helped to pay for 29,539 students to attend private schools, according to a new report issued by the Alliance for School Choice and covered today by the East Valley Tribune.

The money was given away through four state programs designed to assist students in attending private school: the individual and corporate income tuition tax credits, and voucher programs for disabled students and students that have been adopted from foster care. The individual income tax tredit is the big winner, successfully pilfering over $54 million from state coffers, followed by the corporate program at $12 million, and the voucher programs at $2.5 million apiece.

What's more, the corporate income tax credit increases automatically by 20 percent each year automatically. To add insult to injury, Rep. Steve Yarbrough, who also happens to run an organization that benefits from the tax credits, has introduced a bill that lets insurance companies get in on the fun.

Whether or not to allow these programs to continue for FY '10 or suspend them is a subject of ongoing debate down here at the Legislature. But Senate Democrats are certain that expanding them at this time is bad for Arizona.

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