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Capitol Briefs: House further amends ESA program

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Despite passing both chambers last week, a program establishing a new education savings account (ESA) program may see further changes.

HB 349, sponsored by Rep. Phil Christofanelli, would establish the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program. The program would allow taxpayers in communities with populations exceeding 30,0000 to claim a tax credit of up to 50 percent of their liability for contributions to educational assistance programs. The original program would cap the program at $50 million for the first year with an overall limit of $75 million. 

But Christofanelli offered an amendment on a separate education bill Tuesday morning that would halve the first-year total at $25 million and cap the number of groups that can provide these accounts at 10. The amendment was adopted 79-72, and the bill passed shortly thereafter. 

“Sometimes we have to make compromises, and I’ve made a lot of compromises to get this bill off of the House floor and to the Senate,” he said. “Over the course of our conversations, I learned about the point of view of different senators and I offered in good faith to advocate for those changes.”

  • Despite lengthy floor debate in the House earlier this year, the only line of questioning in the upper chamber last week was for clarification on the reach of the program. The bill passed without a substitute or amendments from the Senate. 
  • Democrats in the House opposed the measure as an “experiment” aimed at urban communities during its time on the floor in February. 
  • The underlying bill would restrict schools from using public funds for political purposes.