Advocates fight to keep Invest In Kids scholarship program whole as Pritzker eyes cuts | Illinois

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(The Center Square) – As lawmakers continue to hash out budget details for how to spend Illinois taxpayers’ money, one tax credit in the governor’s crosshairs has private school advocates fighting to keep it alive.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said this week his proposal to limit the Invest In Kids tax credit program is less expensive for the state’s taxpayers.

“I don’t want scholarships to go away at all,” Pritzker said Monday. “What we’re trying to do, two things, one is we introduced a budget that is balanced in a pandemic, and one of the changes that we proposed making is to rely on federal tax benefits and tax deductions rather than state tax credits.”

The governor’s proposal would drop the Invest In Kids tax credit from 70% to 40% with an impact of $14 million. That’s one of nine different tax credit programs the governor is looking to either limit or end for a total impact of $932 million.

Last week, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability revised their estimated revenues up more than $2 billion for this fiscal year and more than $790 million for the coming fiscal year. There’s also more than $8 billion over two years being sent to Illinois by federal taxpayers.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, Thursday said despite the more-than-expected revenues for this year and the fiscal year that starts July 1, there’s still a budget gap to fund programs at levels they’re proposing.

“The $1.5 billion hole came down some to about $1.3 [billion], but that hole is still there, and that’s FY22,” Harris said.

Cyndi Hasenstab with St. James Catholic School in Millstadt was in Springfield lobbying lawmakers to not diminish the tax credit, and to eliminate the program’s sunset.

The Invest In Kids, which gives donors a tax credit for giving to the fund, has helped tens of thousands of low-income families find a private school of their choice. And, during most of the pandemic when public schools were remote learning, Hasenstab said they’ve been open for in-person learning five days a week.

“As you know this pandemic has hit upon students’ social-emotional status,” Hasenstab said. “Well, we’ve been able to overcome many of those challenges because of the support of the program like this.”

Limiting Invest In Kids will hurt students and their families benefiting from the program, Hasenstab said.

“Reducing the tax credit is a slap in the face to our kids,” she said. “Because without this program, without this scholarship, we’re going to have to look at these families, these kids, these small children, in the face and tell them ‘I’m sorry, we can not afford to have you here.’”

Lawmakers have a May 31 deadline to pass a budget and to decide on whether to change the slew of tax credit programs the governor proposed limiting or ending.

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Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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