Democrats assailed the tax credits as a backdoor to state-sponsored school vouchers that would leave a $50 million loophole in the state tax laws.
"This bill may in fact create some problems for all the residents in the great state of Georgia," said Sen. Emanuel Jones,. D-Decatur, questioning whether it was a veiled attempt at school vouchers.
Jones added that House Bill 1133 would open up a tax loophole "large enough to drive a truck through."
But President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, RSavannah, the measures sponsor in the Senate, rebuffed claims that the bill establishes vouchers, and said it only creates a way for individuals and companies to support private education through nonprofit student scholarship organizations.
"Tuition tax credit is not a voucher," Johnson said.
Under the bill, a married couple could receive a tax credit of up to $2,500 or $1,000 for an individual for donations to a charitable organization that devotes at least 90 percent of its revenue to scholarships and tuition grants allowing children to attend any private school.
Corporations would be eligible for a tax credit equal to the amount of their donation or 75 percent of its income tax liability.
The credits are not tied to specified donation amounts, meaning an individual taxpayer could donate $1 and receive a $1,000 tax credit, state Auditor Russell Hinton noted in a memo to Rep. David Casas, R-Lilburn, who shepherded the bill through the House. Donors could not specify which school would receive their donation.
The tax credits, which would be in place this year if the bill is signed into law, are capped at $50 million.
Average private school tuition in Georgia is $5,800, John-son said.
Through a parliamentary procedure, Republicans success-fully blocked any attempts to amend the bill, as well as several other tax-related bills, before it came to a vote on the Senate floor.
The bill now heads to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature or veto.
Jake Armstrong can be reached at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.