Legislation to add Idaho’s new STEM Action Center to the list of educational entities to which donations qualify for a state tax credit has cleared the House on a 66-4 vote, after Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, led the opposition.
“It’s not that I hate children or do not want to donate to these agencies,” Scott told the House. “The money that’s coming out of that is coming from our general fund, and our general fund is going down by that amount. … There is no oversight to many of these tax credits. When the money is refunded, it’s not tracked through the schools how it’s actually being spent. Shortfalls are made up by raising taxes for everyone else, kind of like last year with the gas tax. Effectively, those that donate steer tax dollars to their chosen state charities – remember that these are state charities. And there is an effect on the non-state charities in our state. So you can come out probably about 20 percent ahead by donating to a state charity, and you would not get that same refund if you donated to a food relief or a church that is not a state agency.”
House Education Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, who is co-sponsoring HB 357 with Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, disputed Scott’s characterization of the tax credit. “There’s a number of different organizations that are allowed to participate in this program, they’re primarily different kinds of schools, libraries,” he said. “So in terms of state charities, I’m not sure exactly where or how these schools would fall under that definition. Certainly the one that’s being considered here, the STEM Action Center, would not be considered a state charity.”
The new center is hoping to attract corporate contributions to match state funds for boosting science, technology, engineering and math education programs in Idaho. DeMordaunt added, “I think we have great accountability.”
In the 66-4 vote, the only representatives to join Scott in opposing the bill were Reps. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; Gayle Batt, R-Wilder; and Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; the bill now moves to the Senate side.