Georgia Lawmaker Rewrites Bill to Offer $350,000 in Tax Breaks to Christian School Where He’s a Trustee

Just hours before the Georgia legislative session ended last week, State Sen. Bruce Thompson (below) made an alteration to HB 202, a bill dealing with taxes, in order to give a massive break to a private Christian college:

Georgia lawmakers carved out a tax break to a private college… exempting a school focused on preparing students as Baptist faith evangelists from paying up to $350,000 in sales taxes on construction materials for a new recreation center.

Truett-McConnell College’s students are required to complete 16 hours of classes toward a “Great Commission” minor — named after Jesus’ charge to his apostles that they spread his word. The Cleveland, Ga., school’s website describes its mission as “fostering a Christian Worldview through a biblically-centered education” and invites visitors to call 1-800-JESUS-20 or chat online for spiritual help.

The bill basically reimburses the school for up to $350,000 in sales taxes, courtesy of Georgia taxpayers.

Oh, by the way, Thompson happens to be on the school’s Board of Trustees. But that totally had nothing to do with it, I’m sure.

State Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, sponsored the measure and said this week that he wrote the exemption at the request of Truett-McConnell officials.

I don’t think it’s a big deal, and here’s why: Most Americans file an itemized tax return so they can take advantage of tax benefits and exemptions out there,” Thompson said. “This is the same situation.”

Except most Americans don’t get to call in favors from a member of the State Senate when they know their taxes are going to be really high and they don’t feel like paying them. If you want to save some money, your BFF won’t rewrite the law in your favor.

While the sales tax exemption would theoretically apply to all private colleges with between 1,000-3,000 students..

only Truett-McConnell was named in a fiscal note given to lawmakers estimating the bill’s financial effects — $152,000 lost by the state and $114,000 lost by local governments in White County.

[Truett-McConnell President Emir] Caner said the school expects to claim all $350,000 in state sales tax exemptions permitted by the bill.

Those other schools also don’t have massive construction projects coming up in the near future.

It may be hard to file a lawsuit in this case because the money isn’t directly being handed to the school, but make no mistake: this is $350,000 that belongs in the state’s coffers that’s going to be given to a school whose primary mission is to preach Christianity.

The bill has yet to reach the desk of Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

(Thanks to Michael for the link)

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