Legislation that would create an adoption tax credit for Montana residents passed unanimously through the House Taxation Committee on Thursday.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell and had its first hearing in committee on Tuesday.
Specifically, the legislation looks to give a tax credit of $5,000 to families who adopt privately and $7,500 to families who adopt through the foster care system as a one time, one credit per child.
“[This bill] is our opportunity to be in support of these families who are stepping forward to open their homes,” Sprunger said on Tuesday as she introduced her bill.
The hearing drew many proponents, including adoptive parents, adoptees themselves, legislators and government representatives.
Gov. Greg Gianforte’s policy director Glenn Oppel testified on behalf of the governor in support of the bill — an adoption credit was included in Gianforte’s budget proposal. According to Oppel, Sprunger came to the governor and asked to carry the bill.
The fiscal note attached to the bill indicates that the cost of the legislation would be $1.4 million per year when fully implemented. However, according to Oppel, the fiscal note is not dynamic so it doesn’t show the potential savings for taxpayers overall.
Oppel cited a study done by the National Council for Adoption in 2015 that showed that taxpayers save about $15,500 in state and federal expenditures for each child adopted out of the foster care system.
According to Erica Johnston, an executive director with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, 20% of children who exit the foster care system do so by adoption.
Along with the DPHHS and the Governor’s Office, there was ample citizen testimony. Tessa and Garrett Turner and their four children — three of whom are adopted sisters — spoke to the committee about the costs associated with adoption. They said that the three adoptions cost them about $159,000.
Another Montana resident, Jason Knapp, talked about the costs associated with adoption while focusing on the difficulty of the process, especially for foster care adoptions. Knapp and his wife have been fostering for three years, and are now getting to the point where they are looking into potential adoption.
Kaitlyn Hunt, an adoptee herself who grew up in Helena, was born in 2004 and adopted by her family as a newborn. For the first eight weeks of her life, she suffered from serious drug withdrawals from her birth-mother.
“The availability of a tax credit to ease the financial burden of adoption could be the difference-maker in whether a couple can afford to adopt a child or not,” Hunt said.
There was one opponent to the bill during the hearing. Allen Lloyd, the executive director of the Montana Society of CPAs, said that the organization “reluctantly opposes” the bill due to its creation of a tax credit, which could potentially complicate the tax system.
Lloyd suggested that DPHHS implement a grant program in place of a tax credit.
“[A grant program] would be an additional administrative burden and funding stream that would need to be managed by a division,” Johnston said during the hearing. Proponents of the bill also stated that a grant program would burden adoptive families and DPHHS with more paperwork.
The 2021 Legislature eliminated a tax credit that offered $1,000 to adoptive families. Sprunger told the Inter Lake that it was not impactful enough, so her measure aims to restructure the prior efforts.
HB 225 will be voted on in the House before it moves to the Senate in the coming weeks.
Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.