Monday, April 04, 2011

SCOTUS Votes 5-4 to Uphold Arizona School Choice Tax Credits

Woo Hoo!!

The High Court's ruling reversed a decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court, which found the law unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

The majority included Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, James Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Justice Anthony Kennedy illuminated the heart of the matter in writing for the majority, "Private bank accounts cannot be equated with the Arizona State Treasury."

The lawsuit was originally filed by some Arizona taxpayers to challenge a 14 year old Arizona law which allowed tax credits for citizen contributions to school tuition organizations (STOs). These citizens received a state tax credit of $500 per individual; $1000 per couple for their contributions. The STOs use the contributions to provide scholarships to students attending religious and non-religious K-12 private schools.

Some Arizona taxpayers sought to eliminate those tax credits. SCOTUS said differently.

From the Cato Institute:
"Respondents alleged that cutting a person's taxes is equivalent to spending government money -- and since taxpayers are receiving credits for donations to religious organizations, that was ostensibly equivalent to the government giving to those organizations. The Court answered, quite simply: "That is incorrect." Elaborating, the Court ruled that: credits and governmental expenditures do not both implicate individual taxpayers in sectarian activities. A dissenter whose tax dollars are “extracted and spent” knows that he has in some small measure been made to contribute to an establishment in violation of conscience.... [By contrast,] awarding some citizens a tax credit allows other citizens to retain control over their own funds in accordance with their own consciences."
The usual suspects - Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer voted against the decision, and opined that the ruling "devastates taxpayer standing in Establishment Clause cases."

This, of course, is specious argument. As illustrated earlier, allowing tax payers to keep and spend their money as they choose, without being compelled by tax laws to pay into a system that violates their conscience is, well, very conscionable. And those citizens opposed to the funding of these private school via STOs are not compelled to fund them.

Additionally, tax deductions for charitable causes, including churches and religious organizations are ingrained into our in tax code, as are the liberal use of tax credits - rightly or wrongly - for all kinds of activities the government wants to encourage. In this case, it's the government of Arizona.

But that's not what seriously concerns the Progressives. The real concern is their opposition to school choice and the alarm at the lessening of their strangle hold to compel tax payers to keep the coffers of  the teacher's union full of tax dollars. For the children, they implore. 

Needless to say, the American Federation for Children today praised the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that maintains the constitutionality of a long-running Arizona scholarship tax credit program.
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