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Lawmaker questions audit on Georgia’s Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit

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(The Center Square) — A Georgia lawmaker is pushing back on a state audit that indicated Georgia’s Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit could save the state and local school districts millions of dollars in expenses, calling it a “loser for Georgia taxpayers.”

The Georgia Department of Audits & Accounts could not determine the exact fiscal impact because of the unknown “switcher rate” — how many scholarship recipients would have attended a public school without a scholarship from a Student Scholarship Organization.

“Upon review, any alleged profitability for the state is a non sequitur fallacy of an audit that did not include financial results or ‘switcher rate’ data that is directly linked to the Georgia program,” Rep. Lisa Campbell, D-Kennesaw, said in a statement.

“Instead, the analysis uses an indirect 67 percent switcher rate, but data collected in this analysis was much lower,” Campbell added. “Using the reported switcher data that averaged 32 percent, there would be a projected tax loss – not a savings. According to the reported calculation, there would be a substantial negative impact to the state if the actual switcher rate reported by the SSOs is used. This is a loser for Georgia taxpayers to the tune of at least $81 million annually and more than $172 million over the last few years.”

The state created the QEEC in 2008 with House Bill 1133. It allows corporate and individual taxpayers to earn a “dollar-for-dollar tax credit” for donating to organizations that give scholarships to private school students.

A news release indicated Campbell plans to push legislation requiring additional SSO data, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for more information.

“Data can answer the questions regarding financial viability, savings and student learning outcomes, but only when data is transparent,” Campbell said. “This report should not be used to suggest that siphoning taxpayer dollars from our public schools to private entities saves taxpayers money, furthers parental choice or improves students’ educational opportunities. Using this report as the impetus to tout taxpayer savings is a prevarication.”

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