Wednesday, March 20, 2019

#TXLEGE: House trying to extend local-level corporate welfare under the radar

"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

[Note: The hearing can be viewed here. Our testimony on the first bill is about an hour in.  Our second testimony is about an hour after that.  We'll update this post with our others.]

This afternoon, we've testified against two bills in House Ways and Means.  We're waiting to testify in favor of two others.  But the pattern is becoming clear.

The House is moving to extend two of the most noxious corporate welfare programs in this state.  "Chapter 312" are local tax abatements that subsidize displacement and gentrification.  "Chapter 313" are ineffective school-district boondoggles.  They want to extend both.

The bills related to Chapter 312 and 313 are the following:
  • HB 360         Murphy
    Relating to the extension of the expiration date of the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act.
  • HB 2129        Murphy            
    Relating to the extension of the expiration of certain parts of the Texas Economic Development Act.
Both programs share the same problem: They (kinda sorta) cut taxes for already wealthy people who can afford to hire lobbyists.  Everyone else gets nothing.  All this at a time when property tax reform for regular people languishes.

[Note: For perspective, HB 2 has been sitting in committee since the UTSA game.]

There's been a lot of talk this session about how to "pay for" property tax reform.  We don't particularly accept the premise of that question, but we understand why folks are asking it.  If we are going to have to "pay for" property tax reform for regular Texans, these sorts of special interest carve outs are the first place to look.

Furthermore, it's galling to hear these corporate guys whine about their school taxes.  On Chapter 313, specifically, we've heard corporate lobbyist after corporate lobbyist after corporate lobbyist going on about their burdensome school taxes.  Unfortunately, they couldn't care less about the rest of us.  As long as their lobbyists can get them special tax breaks.

To be honest, these corporate guys are making a great case for a much bigger tax compression as part of any school finance reform.

Finally, on Chapter 312/313, we'll say this: Having Jim Friggin' Murphy carry this bill might not be the best optics.

That being said, the committee is hearing two other bills to significantly increase transparency in the process:
  • HB 2799        Sanford                 
    Relating to economic development.
  • HB 1977        Cole               
    Relating to a requirement that a fiscal impact statement be provided before a taxing unit may enter into a tax abatement agreement.
Both are good.  Not surprisingly, the Sanford bill is better than the Cole bill.  But either one would be a significant improvement over the status quo.

Bottom Line: Must be nice to be able to afford lobbyists; unfortunately, that's not an option for the rest of us....

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