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Bill would establish income tax credit for school levy campaign contributions

Special to the Legal News

Published: February 16, 2012

An Ohio House bill that would grant income tax credits for contributions to school district levy campaign committees has gained support from the Ohio School Board Association, Ohio Education Association and Ohio Federation of Teachers.

The proposal, House Bill 210, is sponsored by Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain.

In recent testimony before the House Ways and Means committee, Ramos described the measure as an expansion of current policy that allows a $50 dollar-for-dollar tax credit for individuals, or $100 for couples filing jointly, for contributions made to any statewide or state legislative campaign.

“The reason for expanding this to school levies is simple,” Ramos said. “Like the right to representation, a right to a fair and equitable education is guaranteed by the Ohio Constitution. It is my belief that the intent of granting this type of tax credit in the first place was to guarantee that the citizens, in choosing their constitutionally guaranteed representatives, would have the opportunity to gain knowledge and learn about whom they had to choose from.”

Likewise, Ramos said, in determining the level of local support needed for school districts, the proposed credit would offer school districts the same opportunity that candidates have to educate taxpayers.

“This is particularly important now, during the current economic climate, as more and more districts are turning to local taxpayers for additional support,” he said.

“This bill would help better assure the public has adequate access to critical information necessary to make an educated decision.”

If HB 210 is signed into law, the tax credits would be authorized in a manner similar to contributions made to statewide or judicial campaigns in which individuals are allowed to claim up to $50 and couples up to $100.

Officials from the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials joined the OSBA in penning a letter of support for the proposal.

“(State law) prohibits school districts from expending public funds or using public employees during scheduled work time to support the passage of a school levy or bond issue,” the statement reads.

“This requires committees of citizens supporting these issues to raise funds in order to promote the passage of a levy. Support for these volunteers through a tax credit would be a positive benefit for all the time that they contribute.”

The statement, which was signed by Damon Asbury, OSBA director of legislative services, Thomas P. Ash, BASA director of governmental relations and Barbara Shaner, OASBO associate executive director, went on to reference the timeliness of HB 210.

“Our analysis shows that 109 school levy or bond issues will appear on the March 2012 primary election ballot. Quite frankly, it is expensive to share the information that voters seek,” the trio wrote.

“The effort that campaign committees supporting these issues expend in raising the necessary funds to inform the electorate could be better channeled if not distracted by the need to raise funds to support the campaign.”

The letter ends by stating that the three organizations are supporting HB 210 because it “merely elevates contributions to a school district levy committee to the same status as contributions to a candidate for a state office.”

OEA President Patricia Frost-Brooks has added her endorsement of the proposal.

“HB 210 provides a much-needed tool for enabling successful school district levy campaigns,” she said, adding that she believes the bill would encourage citizens to financially support and become involved in the outcome of such campaigns.

HB 210 is co-sponsored by Reps. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, Dennis Murray, D-Sandusky, Lorraine Fende, D-Willowick, Michael Ashford, D-Toledo, Mark Okey, D-Carrollton, Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, and Sean O’Brien, D-Brookfield.

The bill has yet to be scheduled for a second committee hearing.

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