Utah to reconsider bill funding special needs scholarships

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and Senate workers conduct business during the Utah Legislature first-ever digital special session at the Capitol, April 16, 2020. On Thursday, lawmakers confronted a range of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provo • A non-refundable tax credit would be established in Utah for people and businesses wanting to donate to a Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program for private school students under a bill vetoed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert earlier this month.

State lawmakers are scheduled to reconsider the bill in a special session on Thursday, The Daily Herald reported.

The bill would create "a program to provide scholarships for students with disabilities to help cover certain costs to attend qualifying private schools" and create "related corporate and individual tax credits for certain donations to the scholarship program," Herbert said.

Republican Rep. Mike Schultz sponsored the bill, which passed through the House and Senate in March.

Herbert vetoed the bill April 1 and three other proposals "that amend tax policy in a time of uncertainty."

Herbert said there were "additional concerns with the approach the bill takes to funding services for our students," and noted that private school students needing special education can already get scholarships through the state Board of Education's Carson Smith Scholarship Program.

The legislation includes a new provision to have a committee study whether it is feasible to combine this proposed scholarship program with the state's scholarship program, officials said.

The bill was also changed to have scholarship amounts based on the adjusted gross household income, meaning low-income students would be eligible for more money than their wealthier peers.

Schultz could not be reached Tuesday to comment on the bill.