Tuesday, December 4, 2018

#TXLEGE: "School Finance reform" without PROPERTY TAX RELIEF is pointless (or worse)

"But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
Nehemiah 5:15

Last week, the school finance commission held one of its final meetings:
The upcoming legislative session is more than a month away, but public school advocates are warning that a meaningful overhaul of the beleaguered school finance system is in jeopardy because of a competing priority: property tax relief.

A state commission created to suggest fixes to how the state funds public education has instead focused on reining in property taxes — including a plan by Gov. Greg Abbott — without identifying how to pay for the idea, let alone grow the overall pot of money for public schools.

Property tax and state revenue primarily fund the state’s public schools, which serve 5.4 million students.

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance, created by the Legislature last year, has for months been listening to input from district officials, state leaders and analysts. It is slated to issue recommendations by the end of the month.

Lawmakers have said they will make school finance a priority during the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 8, but public school officials and advocates fear the drive to usher in property tax relief will come at the expense of adequately funding schools.
To which TPPF replied:
“Texans desire the opportunity to finally own property one day instead of renting from the government,” said Vance Ginn, Ph.D., and director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at TPPF. “By limiting government spending and using taxes collected by the state to freeze and buy down the school M&O property tax until eliminated, that part of the American dream can finally be fulfilled. We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission and other elected officials to provide substantial tax relief and abundant prosperity for Texans.”

To help achieve property tax relief, the Texas Public Policy Foundation previously issued a proposal that could eliminate nearly half of the property tax burden by ending the school maintenance and operations property tax. This property tax relief proposal is supported by the 18 groups of the Conservative Texas Budget Coalition.
TPPF is exactly right.  Unless you're reducing property taxes at the local level, why should the state put more money into education?!?  At that point, you're just pouring money into the status quo.  That's exactly why we opposed the house's 'school finance' effort last session.

The whole point of engaging on this issue is that the state picking up a bigger share of the tab is the easiest practical way to move from property taxes to consumption taxes.  That's why the RPT included this specific proposal in its legislative priorities.

That being said, we were intrigued by one of the educrats' comments about ending tax exemptions.  That's a discussion that is worth having.  If we can add the educrats to the coalition discussed yesterday, we could be onto something.

Bottom Line: Without tangible property tax relief, there's no reason to engage this issue.  Do the educrats want to blow up this process before it begins?!?  Or do they want to engage in a productive conversation about ending tax carve-outs?!?  Because the choice is up to them.

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