Ohio House passes tax bill that would give teachers a break on school supplies

Published: Thursday, October 10, 2019 @ 3:08 PM

School supplies at Fulton Elementary. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
School supplies at Fulton Elementary. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Ohio lawmakers voted Thursday in favor of a bill that would give teachers a tax break when buying school supplies.

Senate Bill 26 would authorize a state income tax deduction for teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses for professional development and classroom supplies.

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There is already a federal tax deduction for up to $250 for qualified educators. This bill would cover an additional $250 for educators in Ohio.

Scott DiMauro, the president of the Ohio Education Association, said the bill will help alleviate the burden that many educators feel when using money from their own pockets. The Ohio Education Association is the state’s largest teachers union.

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Last week Sen. Stephanie Kunze R-Hilliard, who introduced the legislation, testified before the House Finance Committee that teachers spend an average of $600 of their own money each year on basic school supplies. Nearly all educators, 94%, spend some amount of money of school supplies out of pocket, DiMauro said, citing a 2018 U.S. Department of Education study.

“This bill would essentially cover the gap from $251 to $500 for teachers in Ohio,” DiMauro said. “And while we welcome this support for educators, schools need to meet the needs of their students and that still needs to be addressed in the Legislature.”

Ohio would join five other states and Washington, D.C., in offering an income tax credit or deduction for school supplies, if this bill passes.

“No teacher should have to buy their own school supplies. We need to equip our schools with the necessary resources so teachers don’t bear the burden,” Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said. “This bill is a step in the right direction, but we have more work to do.”

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said the bill is good for teachers and students.

“This is a fair bill that will help teachers and students across the state of Ohio,” Lehner said.

Business tax break added to bill

Lawmakers also amended in a business tax break that allows sole proprietors, partnerships and LLCs to avoid paying state income tax on the first $250,000 in revenue. Previously, lobbyists and lawyers were ineligible for the tax break, but the amendment would make them eligible.

Antani said this was changed because it was difficult to enforce.

“You don’t write down your occupation when you file your taxes, so it was probably pretty hard to say who was a lawyer and who was a lobbyist,” Antani said. “Also, you can’t tax some people one way and tax another group of people another way.”

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The bill will now go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote on the amendments passed in the House on Thursday. Senate Bill 26 was passed by the Senate in May. Antani said he thought the Senate could look at the bill as soon as next week.