Thursday, February 1, 2018

Teacher Tax Credit Bill Goes Down, But Budget Amendments Take the Day

VEA members have long asked for state tax relief from the millions of dollars worth of classroom supplies they purchase each year out of their own pockets. The National School Supplies Association reports that, on average, educators spend just under $500 each year on non-reimbursed classroom supplies. No surprise to many, the top items purchased were Pepperidge Farms Goldfish snacks, hand sanitizer, and tissues. In Virginia we have nearly 100,000 educators, so that is fifty million dollars of supplies purchased even on our limited incomes. While there is a Federal tax deduction, it is only for $250, and for a while during the debate in Washington over the tax plan, that deduction was on the chopping block. With a huge advocacy effort by the NEA and all of our state affiliates, the deduction was included in the final bill.

Regardless of the Federal deduction, our members have asked for state tax relief for their expenses. This year Delegate Hala Ayala carried House Bill (HB) 624 on our behalf. This bill would have established a $250 Virginia tax credit for educators for non-reimbursed classroom expenses that were not claimed on any Federal tax return. We were so glad that Delegate Ayala carried this bill for us and it had a fair hearing in House Finance. There were lot of complimentary words and thanks, and, for a quick moment it looked like the bill might actually get out and get a hearing in House Appropriations. We appreciate Delegate Watts for making that motion. Sadly, the Finance Committee went back to their rules to kill bills with huge price tags. This bill could result in a loss of over $23 million in state revenue, so it was passed by indefinitely. A good hearing but a bad outcome.

Late yesterday afternoon the House Appropriations Committee Public Ed Sub held hearings on all 60 of the budget amendments proposed by members of the House. There are many budget amendments we support and there seems to be a sense that some really good movement will be made in programs that really benefit the students the most in need. There are a pile of amendments to increase the at-risk add on funding and to increase funding for programs to reduce suspensions and expulsions. The VEA has asked for these types of resources for years, and the at-risk add on is the best method we have in Virginia to target additional state funding to the students who need the support the most. Hopefully the House Appropriators will do the right thing and include these important funding streams when they develop their budget.

We will know soon enough what the House does when we see their budget in a couple of weeks. I am very hopeful this will be a good year for our school employees, our public schools, and our students.