Vindication for New Hampshire’s Scholarship Tax Credit Program
In February, the Show-Me Institute released “Live Free and Learn: A Case Study of New Hampshire’s Scholarship Tax Credit Program,” written by Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute. Bedrick also discussed this school choice program at an event we hosted at Lindenwood University (see video above [starts at 4:00]). At the time, he noted that the scholarship program was being challenged in the New Hampshire courts. Yesterday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a big win for the families benefiting from the program.
Blogging about the ruling, Bedrick writes:
“The New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s flawed and unprecedented decision, which had forbidden scholarship recipients from using the funds at religiously affiliated private schools. The lower court held that the scholarship funds constituted ‘money raised by taxation’ and therefore violated the state’s historically anti-Catholic Blaine Amendment, which states:
“[No] money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination. (New Hampshire Constitution, Part II, Article 83)
“The New Hampshire Supreme Court did not address the merits of the lower court’s decision because it held the petitioners were unable to demonstrate that ‘their personal rights have been impaired or prejudiced.’ Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court, in rejecting the petitioners’ standing in ACSTO v. Winn, held that the tax-credit funds did not constitute public money because they had not ‘come into the tax collector’s hands.'”
Like New Hampshire, Missouri has a Blaine Amendment that prohibits public dollars going to religious institutions. That is why this ruling is important for private school choice supporters in Missouri to take note of this case. Because the funding in a tax credit scholarship program does not enter into the public treasury, the funds should not be considered public dollars. For this reason, a tax credit scholarship program may have the best chance of passing constitutional muster in the Show-Me State.