Wednesday, March 6, 2019

#TXLEGE: Given inch, Huberty et. al. take a frickin' mile

"There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it."
Proverbs 21:20

SIGH, of course:
Faced with a surplus of state funds this biennium, and flanked by Democrat and Republican lawmakers, State Rep. Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood) announced House Bill 3, the chamber’s plan for school finance reform and property tax relief.

Dubbed “The Texas Plan” in marketing materials published immediately after the announcement, HB 3 would add $9 billion in new state funding of public education in addition to the other $2 billion increase for projected enrollment growth.

The “Basic Allotment”, or the amount of funding per student, would be raised from $5,140 to $6,030, representing an $890 increase per student.

The legislation would also provide property tax relief by compressing school tax rates by four cents statewide, while reducing Robin Hood projected recapture payments by more than 38% during the biennium.
To be fair: At least at the conceptual level, this approach is less bad than what the House pushed last session.  Clearly, the school finance commission was helpful.  At a minimum, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that punting the issue into this session was the right move.

But let's get real: This is an astronomical amount of new spending, with miniscule tax relief.


Given the size, and composition, of the fiscal note, details (almost) don't matter.  But the details recommend this plan even less.  This proposal gives too much leeway to spendaholic school districts.

Say what you will about the Senate's teacher pay proposal.  It's pretty mediocre.  But at least the Senate is earmarking their spending for classroom instruction.

The House proposal, by contrast, is a blank check for bureaucrats.

Then there's this:

Obviously unacceptable.

Nevertheless, one reality remains: The easiest, practical, way to move from property to consumption taxes is by having the state take over a larger share of school funding.  That's still true.  But, for that reality to matter, that rate compression needs to be a lot bigger.

"A lot bigger" means eliminating Robin Hood.

If that doesn't happen in committee, we'll see you on the floor.

Bottom Line: It's not the worst school finance proposal we've ever seen, but it needs a lot more work before it's a win for Texas taxpayers.

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