School computer donors may get tax break Public schools not covered in measure OK'd by House

March 29, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Parents of private and parochial school students would receive a tax break for donating computer equipment to their children's schools, but parents of public school students would not under legislation that received preliminary approval in the House of Delegates yesterday.

Before clearing the measure for a final vote tomorrow, delegates voted 71-55 to reject an amendment by Del. Dan K. Morhaim that would have made donations to public schools eligible for the tax break.

The Baltimore County Democrat said parents of public school children would be interested in making such donations.

Del. Anne Healey, the Prince George's Democrat who sponsored the bill, told delegates that public schools are "already being taken care of" because the state is investing millions to put computers in public school systems.

Healey said her bill is aimed at private and parochial schools because they do not receive such money from the state. She said that if the amendment were adopted, the benefit to private schools would be diluted.

But supporters of the amendment said many public schools still need help.

"We have miles to go before we complete the essential public facilities we need in this state," said Del. Leon G. Billings, a Montgomery County Democrat.

Del. Shane Pendergrass, a Howard County Democrat, said the amendment addressed "a question of fairness."

"This is a question of treating public schools equally with private schools," she said.

But Healey said corporations eager to donate equipment to large school systems to get students used to their products overlook private schools.

She said donors to public schools would not be treated unfairly because they remain eligible for a federal tax credit.

The Maryland tax break, Healey said, was just "a little extra" for private schools. She said the subtraction would be worth slightly less than $50 for a donation worth $1,000 -- the minimum amount eligible for the break.

The vote on the amendment produced a turnabout of sorts, with most liberal Democrats supporting an expanded tax break, and most Republicans opposing it.

If the measure passes the House, as expected, it faces a skeptical Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

"If they're going to do it, it ought to be for both," the Baltimore Democrat said. "Why would you not want people to help their local public schools?"

Hoffman said she doubted a tax break of the size proposed would have any affect on a taxpayer's decision to give.

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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