Private schools press Wolf to approve tax credits during Pa. stalemate

 Protesters in Philadelphia call on Gov. Tom Wolf to prevent some scholarship funding from dissolving due to the Pennsylvania budget impasse. (Emma Lee/NewsWorks)

Protesters in Philadelphia call on Gov. Tom Wolf to prevent some scholarship funding from dissolving due to the Pennsylvania budget impasse. (Emma Lee/NewsWorks)

Private schools in Pennsylvania are putting the pressure on the Wolf administration to reverse its decision not to authorize up to $150 million in tax credits that bolster their scholarship programs.

Gov. Tom Wolf has said the tax credits and corresponding scholarship funds fall into the same category as other expenditures that can’t be made without a budget.

“I don’t see we have any choice,” said Wolf told reporters. “It has to be part of the budget. We aren’t authorized to release anything until we have a budget.”

Private school advocates disagree with the Wolf administration’s interpretation.

Aaron Troodler, part of a group that lobbies for Jewish day schools, believes the tax credits should be authorized even in the absence of a state budget.

“It’s not part of the budget process,” said Troodler. “In our opinion, there is no legal impediment.”

The two separate programs, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and the Opportunity Scholarships Tax Credit, give businesses an incentive to contribute to scholarship funds for students opting for private schools or out-of-district public schools. State law authorizes up to $150 million in contributions.

That money, most of which benefits private schools, could disappear if the budget impasse isn’t brought to a close before the end of the year.

After Dec. 31, businesses no longer will be able to apply for credits for the 2015 tax year and cut corresponding checks to the schools of their choice.

“We lose an entire year of this funding,” said Troodler, “and schools will get crushed.”

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