HB 1982 expands vouchers unchecked

Lawmakers have proposed a laundry list of voucher bills this session, including HB 1982 by Rep. Mark Lepak (R-Claremore).

It sets into motion a continuous, exponential expansion of voucher tax credit giveaways.

Lepak’s bill annually increases the cap of the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship tax voucher giveaways. The rules are complicated, so let’s look at how this works.

Right now, Oklahomans can donate money to a scholarship program that pays tuition for private school students. This involves three groups:

The donors.

Individuals can donate up to $1,000 per year and get 50% of the donation back as a credit on the donor’s tax bill. Donors can get 75% back if they promise to give again next year. The state allows up to $3.5 million in tax dollars to be given away in these tax credits. This limit is called the cap. This is what Lepak’s bill would change. More on that below.

The students.

These scholarships are used to pay private school tuition, and proponents often tout how it will help “low-income students” attend a school that would be otherwise out of reach. The scholarships are open to families who earn up to three times the income limits for reduced-price lunch. For context, a family of four can earn up to $139,305 and still qualify. For even more context, the median household income in Oklahoma is $52,919, according to the U.S. Census.

The middleman.

The state allows a non-government group to run this voucher scheme, and it’s allowed to keep 10% of the scholarship donations — up to $700,000 a year. So, who cashes in? The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a right-wing think tank that routinely attacks public education in our state. Not a bad take for an organization that brought in about $2.1 million in its most recent tax filing year.

Take action on HB 1982

So that brings us back to HB 1982. The bill increases the cap on how much the state can give away in tax credits.

Every year, if a set of broad conditions have been met, the cap will increase by 25%, triggering exponential growth with no limit. This year, the cap is $3.5 million. In ten years, it will top $32 million. 

That is public money funneled out of the state budget and into the pockets of wealthy donors and private schools.

The bill is set for a vote in the House Appropriations & Budget Committee. Please contact committee members and ask them to vote no.

House Appropriations & Budget Committee

  • Rep. Rhonda Baker — (405) 557-7311
  • Rep. Forrest Bennett — (405) 557-7404
  • Rep. Meloyde Blancett — (405) 557-7334
  • Rep. Jeff Boatman — (405) 557-7341
  • Rep. Sheila Dills — (405) 557-7331
  • Rep. Jon Echols — (405) 557-7354
  • Rep. Scott Fetgatter — (405) 557-7373
  • Rep. Ross Ford — (405) 557-7347
  • Rep. Regina Goodwin — (405) 557-7406
  • Rep. Kyle Hilbert — (405) 557-7353
  • Rep. Brian Hill — (405) 557-7333
  • Rep. Chris Kannady — (405) 557-7337
  • Rep. Mark Lawson — (405) 557-7414 
  • Rep. Mark Lepak — (405) 557-7380
  • Rep. Ryan Martinez — (405) 557-7342
  • Rep. Mark McBride — (405) 557-7346
  • Rep. Kevin McDugle — (405) 557-7388 
  • Rep. Marcus McEntire — (405) 557-7327
  • Rep. Nicole Miller — (405) 557-7357
  • Rep. Garry Mize — (405) 557-7350
  • Rep. Cyndi Munson — (405) 557-7392 
  • Rep. Carl Newton — (405) 557-7339
  • Rep. Monroe Nichols — (405) 557-7391
  • Rep. Mike Osburn — (405) 557-7360
  • Rep. John Pfeiffer — (405) 557-7332
  • Rep. Dustin Roberts — (405) 557-7366
  • Rep. Sean Roberts — (405) 557-7322
  • Rep. Todd Russ — (405) 557-7312
  • Rep. Danny Sterling —(405) 557-7349 
  • Rep. Judd Strom — (405) 557-7402
  • Rep. Emily Virgin — (405) 557-7323
  • Rep. Collin Walke — (405) 557-7335
  • Rep. Kevin Wallace — (405) 557-7368
  • Rep. Josh West — (405) 557-7415
  • Rep. Tammy West — (405) 557-7348