Saturday, July 23, 2005

They Can't Agree Among Themselves

This is a good article from today's Statesman, Majority GOP has difficulty agreeing. Its about where the problem lies within the Republican and their inability to reach an agreement on taxes and school finance.
One-party government was supposed to be easier than this.

For 2 1/2 years now, Republicans have controlled the Texas House and Senate, not to mention the governor's office and every other statewide elected job. And yet lawmakers have not agreed on a way to pay for public education, an issue with major political implications in every corner of the state.
It then goes to talk about how the once lofty goal of significantly lowering property taxes for everyone has now just turned into a tax swap with only a minimal lowering of property taxes and higher sales taxes. Here, Rep. Chisum says it better:
Rep. Warren Chisum, a Pampa Republican and one of the House negotiators, said it would be tough for Texans to remember the smaller-than-advertised property tax cuts when paying sales tax on bottled water for the first time or paying $1 more in taxes on a pack of cigarettes, two ideas floated during the tax talks.

"When we were talking (about cutting) a full one-third in your property taxes, you kind of looked back home and said that would be hard not to do that," Chisum said, referring to earlier plans to reduce the maximum $1.50 school tax rate by 50 cents.

"But if you're talking 25 cents and you're in a district where the values are increasing at a rapid rate, you're afraid in a couple of years that will be gone," he said.
So the Republicans fear of raising taxes on anyone who donates money to them has left them only with the option of raising taxes on those that don't give them money.
Concerns of one industry or city can derail the tax proposal, which passed the House by a single vote earlier this month.

And sometimes the opponents take their concerns public. Tobacco company Philip Morris USA Inc. recently ran radio ads urging defeat of the tax plan, which would have more than tripled the cigarette tax.

Some members of the House and Senate also have questioned whether House Speaker Tom Craddick, a Republican from oil-rich Midland, wants the tax swap to pass because it does little to shift the business tax burden away from capital-intensive industries like oil and gas.
So that's why. But what about the school children of Texas? Isn't that what this is all about? It seems to me that a company that resides in Texas and needs workers would want educated workers. Educated workers in turn are probably more productive and therefore would help your business be more productive and for that matter profitable. So wouldn't it be in a businesses best interest to help fund a good public education in Texas?
"There were a significant number of members who finally were able to go home and tell their constituents, 'I didn't like it, but I had to vote for it to keep the schools open,' " said Ratliff, who advises the Texas Association of School Boards.

Also complicating the talks are the differences between House and Senate districts. A House member represents approximately 140,000 people, while a senator represents about five times as many.

That fact weighs particularly heavy on school finance matters because education and taxes hit home with voters much more than most issues. A House member can cast his vote based on how it affects one particular school district, but senators rarely have that luxury.

For instance, more than a dozen House members recently said they would not vote for a school finance plan unless it capped the amount of money that districts with extremely high property values relative to their enrollments must share with the rest of the state.

No senator took such a public stand in favor of the cap, probably because anyone who represents those wealthy districts also probably represents schools with vastly different needs.

"As a result of redistricting over the years, House seats are very homogeneous," Ratliff said. "A House seat is either all rural or all suburban or it's going to be all inner-city.

"Because the districts are so small, they tend to be very polarizing. Most senators are going to be representing some or many of those very different groups."
But in the end it just goes back to reelection politics and don't forget what Rep. Coleman said a few days ago, "These bills are bad public policy, it's hard to get an agreement on bad public policy, it's easy to get an agreement on good public policy". I couldn't agree more.


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