Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bipartisan STO task force requests public comment

From a press release (note: there are two links in the original press release that don't work so I found relevent articles and linked to them; otherwise, the text is unchanged.) -
Task force on private school tax credit program asks for public comment

AG’s office to present findings from STO investigation at task force meeting

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The Bipartisan Task Force on the Private School Tuition Tax Credits program is inviting members of the public to testify at its next meeting on Nov. 12.

A representative from the state Attorney General’s Office also will give a presentation on its investigation into the issue.

Meeting of the Bipartisan Task Force on the Private School Tuition Tax Credits program

When: Thursday, Nov. 12, 1 to 3 p.m.

Where: State Capitol, House Hearing Room 2

Request to speak: The public will be able to sign up to speak at the hearing.

“Public input is vital to ensure this program is effective for Arizona’s school children and that it’s not violating state and federal laws in the future,” said Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe (District 17), the task force’s chair. “Too many questions and concerns have been raised about this program and its reported violations of various laws. We need to take a clear look at it to build education for a stronger Arizona .”

House Democrats announced the creation of the task force in August specifically to address the state’s Private School Tuition Tax Credits program problems and work on bipartisan legislation to reform it.

Both the East Valley Tribune’s investigative series and the Arizona Republic ’s investigation detailed the potentially huge problems and reported illegal activities that come from this tax credit program.

The program allows taxpayers to donate money to school tuition organizations. These STOs then give scholarships to children for private school tuition. In return, the state matches the donations with a tax credit in exchange for their contribution.

The program was signed into law in 1997 by former Gov. Fife Symington and was supposed to make private education more accessible to families who can't afford it. But so far, that hasn't happened.

For instance, according to the Tribune, some STOs reportedly are violating federal tax laws that govern charitable organizations by operating with donations earmarked for particular individuals. They also reportedly are violating state law by not committing a sufficient portion of the donations to students while buying luxury items.

Both newspapers' investigative reports can be accessed online at the http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/page/taxcredits and http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/10/29/20091029stocorporate1029.html.

“The task force will be essential to address this problem and correct it,” said Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff (District 2), task force vice chair.

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