A surge in demand for Georgia's private school tax credit program

The Department of Revenue could soon give lawmakers looking to increase the tax credits allocated for a popular private school scholarship program some added oomph.

Agency spokesman Nick Genesi said the department is fixing to release an update Friday on how many Georgia residents applied for the $58 million in tax credits, which were snapped up within hours on New Year's Day.

He wouldn't disclose details but leaders of Georgia Goal Scholarship sent a dispatch saying they were informed taxpayers applied for about $95 million in tax credits, exceeding the cap by $37 million.

The program allows donors to student scholarship organizations to claim a state tax credit of up to $2,500 for married couples. Corporate donors can claim a credit worth up to 75 percent of their income tax liability. Those organizations then dole out scholarships to students to attend private schools.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, a Republican from Powder Springs and a sponsor of the program, is pushing legislation that would increase the annual cap from $58 million to $250 million next year.

There's strong support in the Republican-controlled Legislature to increase the limit. But Gov. Nathan Deal has issued a caution of sorts.

He said in an interview he wants a study commission he'll assign to vet the education funding formula to also weigh in on whether to expand the private school scholarship program.

“We would hope that those who were interested in that issue would defer to this commission,” Deal said.