Napolitano to veto English learning law, call special session
Associated Press
Jan. 24, 2006

Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that she will veto a Republican bill to retool state programs for instruction of students learning the English language but will call lawmakers into a concurrent special session to immediately resume work on the issue.

The Republican-led Legislature approved the bill on near party-line votes late Monday as lawmakers moved to comply with a federal judge's order to revamp English Language Learning programs within 15 days of the start of the current regular session to avoid costly daily fines against the state.

Napolitano said she will veto the bill, which had yet to arrive on her desk Tuesday afternoon, because of a last-minute provision to provide a new dollar-for-dollar corporate income tax credit for businesses making donations for private school tuition for students who are learning English.

That new credit could drain the state treasury of all $850 million of corporate income tax revenue and prevent the state from being able to meet other priorities, Napolitano said.

She compared the proposed credit to costly subsidies for alternative-fuel vehicles which the state had to scale back in 2000 because they were costing too much.

"It really is an alt fuels for schools," Napolitano said.

Napolitano declined to say whether the rest of the bill was acceptable or whether she would accept a dollar cap on a new tax credit.

Napolitano has previously vetoed an earlier version of the English-learning legislation as well as earlier bills to create a new tax credit similar to the ones included in the bill.

The fines ordered by a federal judge if the state didn't meet the 15-day deadline would start at $500,000 and rise gradually to $2 million by the session's end. Monday was the session's 15th day.

A 2000 court order said current programs violated federal laws for equal opportunities in education, and Napolitano and Republicans have been at odds for months over how to address the issue.

The Republican bill, a revised version of the one vetoed by Napolitano last May, would replace the state's current system of providing extra dollars to school districts for each student in English Language Learning programs with a new approach to provide additional dollars to districts depending on what state-approved programs they use and what other dollars are available from other sources.

Republicans ignored a Napolitano plan that was built around increasing the state's per-student funding.


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