Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Information Alert: Cuccinelli Says Scholarship Tax Credits Constitutional

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Victoria Cobb, President

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Information Alert: Cuccinelli Says Scholarship Tax Credits Constitutional


It’s been one of the primary and yet wholly flawed arguments liberals in Virginia have used against educational freedom for parents.  The claim that by allowing individuals and businesses to claim a tax credit for private donations to scholarship programs, the state is violating the Virginia Constitution’s provision against “appropriations” to non-government agencies, and in particular, “sectarian” institutions.


On Friday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli rejected that flawed argument in an opinion responding to an inquiry from Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44, Fairfax), one of the General Assembly’s most outspoken critics of education freedom for children and families.  This year the General Assembly and Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law a tax credit for individual and business donations to private scholarship programs.


Cuccinelli concluded that such a tax credit does not violate the state Constitution because simply allowing an individual or business to keep some of their income should they donate to a scholarship program is not an “appropriation” of the General Assembly.  The opinion reads, “Legislation providing for tax credits does not set aside a sum certain in the treasury upon its passage, nor does it identify each individual who will benefit from its passage. Moreover, it does not allocate a specific credit amount to any particular claimant since each qualifying taxpayer will not necessarily be entitled to the maximum allowable credit for any specific year.”


To liberals, of course, any money that you’ve earned that the government graciously allows you to keep through a tax credit or deduction is still “public money” that they should control.  Consequently, you shouldn’t be allowed to spend that money any way you want, especially on something religious.  Cuccinelli added, “Significantly, if the meaning of ‘appropriation’ were extended as you suggest, charitable donations to churches would not be deductible for Virginia income tax purposes, for by allowing deductions for sectarian causes, the General Assembly has decreased the tax revenues that otherwise would flow into the general fund.”


Of course, liberals in Virginia would be just fine with that, I’m sure.  They are desperately trying to separate everything “religious” in nature from the “public.”  The money argument was also used this year against conscience clause protections for private child placement agencies.  Opponents argued that a private entity doing work “on behalf of the government” becomes an “agent of the state” and immediately must reject its religious identity or lose “government” funds.  Of course, following that logic with Surrovell’s argument concerning tax credits actually being an appropriation, any church, religious organization or non-profit that happens to enjoy tax exempt status must lose its religious identity because they are getting a “benefit” from the government. 


Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a similar Arizona scholarship tax credit, but liberals continue to beat the same drum.  It’s another reason why we all must have a clear understanding of our religious liberty, and why we must continue to fight to preserve it.

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