- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday urged approval of a tax credit for businesses that donate money to support education, but opponents say the proposal raises questions about whether state tax money should go to religious schools.

Hogan was joined Wednesday by the Rev. William Lori, archbishop of Baltimore. Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, director at Agudath Israel of Maryland, also attended the event promoting the Maryland Education Credit Initiative.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. James DeGrange, D-Anne Arundel, would provide a qualifying Maryland business with a tax credit equal to 60 percent of its donation to public and private education.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, supports the bill, which has passed the Senate in past years. However, it has stalled in the House of Delegates.

House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said the bill is an even tougher sell this year, since Hogan’s budget includes about $144 million less for public schools than expected. Busch also said there is a fundamental question about whether state tax money should pay for private religious schools. The speaker noted two ways the state already helps private schools. Some tobacco settlement money is directed to nonreligious books, and there is a program to help aging schools.

Sean Johnson, the government relations director for the Maryland State Education Association, said the measure would divert public money to private schools and move the state in the wrong direction.

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