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2:30 P.M. UPDATE:

The House on Thursday approved the budget for the state treasurer by an 84-3 vote after the college savings provision was removed. The bill had failed twice previously in the House this week over objections to the savings provision.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

—The Associated Press


House lawmakers Thursday voted to strip controversial policy language from a spending bill for the treasurer’s office, ending a standoff that Republicans had claimed could lead to a state government shutdown.

Democrats had refused to budge over their objections to the language, which would extend tax benefits to families that withdraw funds from their state-run 529 college savings plans to pay for K-12 education expenses, including private school tuition.

The appropriation, House Bill 1122, needed 75 votes to pass. While there are enough House Republicans to pass spending bills by themselves, they were a single vote short in a vote held Wednesday.

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Convening at 11 a.m. Thursday, House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R- Judsonia, said the chamber had reached an “impasse” and the bill lost more votes since the day before.

Instead of holding another vote, the House budget chairman, Rep. Lane Jean, R-Magnolia, offered an amendment that would strip the 529 plan language from the bill. Passing the amendment with a voice vote, the House sent the appropriation back to the budget committee.

If the committee recommends the latest version of the spending bill, it can be reconsidered by the House.

Gillam said the policy changes to the 529 plans will instead be considered separately during a special session planned for next week, where it will only need a simple majority to pass.

John Moritz

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  • RBear
    March 8, 2018 at 5:41 p.m.

    Good to see those provisions stripped. This was clearly an attempt to undermine public schools by exempting tuition funds from taxes through the use of 529 funds designed for college educations. If you read the SEC's website on 529s, you find they are designed for college tuition, not private schools.

  • NoUserName
    March 8, 2018 at 6:03 p.m.

    No, not good. Public schools will still get funding from people who send their kids to private schools.

  • RBear
    March 8, 2018 at 7:40 p.m.

    NUN I disagree. Public schools are paid by the state per pupil. From the Arkansas School Finance Manual, "The amount of local funds collected is divided by the number of students to derive the amount of local money collected per student. The difference between the local amount per student collected and the foundation funding is then paid by the state to the district. For example if a district collects $1,500 through local taxes per-student and the foundation funding amount is $6,584, the state would pay the district $5,084 per-student in foundation funding. The state foundation funding is provided to districts beginning in August and occurring through June on a monthly basis." When funds are not taxed, that means there is not as much to found the foundation's share.