Gov. Sean Parnell signed into law Monday a bill designed to increase industry contributions to higher education and job training institutions by giving them expanded tax breaks.
The bill was supported by members of Juneau's legislative delegation.
"This is going to directly benefit our mining education programs here in Juneau," said Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, who carried the bill on the House floor.
Senate Bill 236 was sponsored by Education Committee Chairmen Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, and Joe Thomas, D-Fairbanks. It was signed by Parnell in Fairbanks.
Currently, companies making contributions for education receive a 50-percent tax credit for the first $100,000 they contribute, a 100-percent credit for the next $100,000, and nothing for any contributions above $200,000.
Senate Bill 236 raised the 100-percent contribution amount and lifted the contribution cap entirely.
Now, donors will continue to receive a 50-percent tax credit for the first $100,000 they donate, followed by a 100-percent tax credit on the next $200,000. Above that, they'd receive a 50-percent tax credit.
There is a $5 million cap on the amount of a tax credit an individual taxpayer can receive.
State Department of Revenue officials declined to provide the Legislature with an estimate of what the program would cost the state, calling it "impractical and impossible to speculate on taxpayer behavior in taking advantage of this credit."
The credits can be applied to oil and gas production taxes, mining license taxes, fisheries taxes and the corporate income tax.
Revenue officials testified that last year only 11 of the state's 15,000 corporate taxpayers used the program, and mostly for relatively small amounts.
Tax credits are considered by companies to be more valuable than tax deductions because they can directly reduce the amount of taxes paid.
The bill also expands who can receive the contributions that earn the credits. They are no longer limited to colleges, enabling job training and other educational programs to qualify.
Muñoz said she hoped the oil and gas, and fishing and construction industries would take advantage of the program, and was confident the state's growing mining industry would use it as well.
"I think there's interest in the mining community in making further investments in the mining training program, and this incentive makes that more feasible," she said.
Meyer's staff said the program was also expanded to allow private nonprofits to benefit as well, but still had enough restrictions that they'd have to be credible and accredited institutions.
The law now also included companies to donate facilities to earn the credits, and not just contribute money for programs.
"This is going to be able to be used by all of our vocational education programs," Muñoz said.
The expanded program will be reviewed in 2014, and may not be continued after that.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.