House budget chief: Losses to voucher program ‘relatively small’

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings on Wednesday said he is not overly concerned about the financial impact of corporate donors halting donations to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program.

School voucher supporters said this week the decision by Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank to stop future contributions to the program are a threat to the number of scholarships low-income students can receive to attend private schools. The banks said they would stop contributions after an Orlando Sentinel investigation found 83 religious schools that accepted state-funded vouchers had policies that explicitly barred gay students from enrolling in the school.

Cummings, R-Fleming Island, said it is too early to tell if those corporate donors will have an impact on the program. At this point, he doesn’t find the funding issue "overly concerning,” Cummings told reporters after a House Appropriations Committee meeting Wednesday.

“At the time being, I am hearing it’s about $10 million or $12 million. I am not saying that is not significant, but in terms of the whole program, you know, I think that is a relatively small amount,” he said.

Cummings said other companies potentially will fill funding gaps created by businesses that no longer want to be associated with the program.

Under the program, businesses receive tax credits for contributing money to nonprofit organizations that, in turn, provide scholarships to students to attend private schools.

“As new information comes in and we hear from stakeholders that there are some students that are not receiving these scholarships as a result of these withdrawals, I think at that time we will figure that out,” Cummings said.