A majority of the Maine House supported a bill May 31 that would allow residents to take a credit off their state income tax to help cover tuition costs for students at private schools.

This followed a vote opposing the bill, LD 1092, in the Senate last week.

Local legislators were divided on the bill that would cover tuition for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at private schools. The bill originally allowed for a $2,500 per year tax credit but that was later reduced to $1,000 for an individual or couple with a gross income of $50,000 or less.

The cost of lost tax revenues from the change is estimated at $13 million annually.

Legislators were divided along party lines with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposed. The House voted 75-67 for the tax credit.

Voting for the private school tax credit were Republican Reps. Wes Richardson of Warren, Dana Dow of Waldoboro, Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea, and Jonathan McKane of Newcastle.

Sanderson said parents are already paying for public schools through their property taxes.

“If they choose to send their children to a private school, they also pay the tuition for that school on top of that. This tax credit helps to ease some of the cost,” Sanderson said.

Voting against the bill were Democratic Reps. Edward Mazurek of Rockland, Chuck Kruger of Thomaston, Joan Welsh of Rockport, Andrew O’Brien of Lincolnville, and Walter Kumiega III of Deer Isle.

Kruger said he voted no because he opposes taking money from public schools to support private and religious schools.

Welsh said there are such limited dollars right now for public education that she does not think it’s a good idea to add state taxpayer dollars for private institutions.

“Our priorities should be for our tax-supported public education that is available for all our children,” Welsh said.

Kumiega said there is no accountability regarding the quality of the education in the private schools. He also argued that the tax credit was non-refundable, so parents that need it the most would be ineligible or receive only a partial credit.

“I won’t support legislation that makes the income divide bigger,” Kumiega said.

On May 25, the state Senate voted 22-13 against the legislation. The Midcoast’s three Republican state senators were split on the matter.

Sen. Christopher Rector of Thomaston voted against the bill while Sens. A. David Trahan of Waldoboro and Michael Thibodeau of Winterport voted for LD 1092.

The House and Senate will take another vote to see if they can reach an agreement, otherwise the bill will be dead.

The Legislature’s Taxation Committee recommended passage of the bill sponsored by Sen. Roger Sherman, R-Houlton.