Sunday, November 27, 2005

How Does School Finance Ruling Look Now, Post Thanksgiving?

The Texas Tax Reform Commission (TTRC), the state legislature and the governor have 7 months from Thursday to come up with a plan to fundamentally change the way our schools are...HA HA HA HA HA...I thought I could make it all the way through without laughing. The best this crew is going to be able to do is put some kind of band-aid on this thing that will be left to future legislatures, governors and whatever kind of blue ribbon commission they can come up with. Let's face it in 7 months time all these guys could agree on would be to give themselves another pay raise.

If we had a governor in this state he/she would tell everybody to hold on a second and take a deep breath. Let's bring not only both sides of the political spectrum together but a wide swath of community leaders and maybe even a few citizens - you know the kind of people that work for hourly wages, or a single mother, or an a retired person - and try and truly change how we finance our schools in this state.

Now earlier I joked about our state leaders and Mr. Sharp's commission and I really believe the best they can do is a short-term solution. But in all seriousness, I hope I'm wrong for the good of this state and the many hard working teachers, parents and students that deserve better than we've been giving them. I hope these groups will go around the state and LISTEN to the people and come up with a solution that will serve us all for many years to come.

To put it simply these groups have 7 months to come up with a way to lower property taxes. That's it! Not fundamentally change the tax structure. Not fundamentally change the way we pay for our schools. Just lower property taxes and raise some other tax. With Republicans in charge if you in the lower 60% like me prepare for a tax increase. Or as this Star-Telegram editorial put it, Lawmaker's finance idea likely to get another look:
Meanwhile just about every state level politico is jumping on one bandwagon or another in regard to this situation, from the governor on down. But absent creation of a state income tax -- fat chance -- in the long run what will probably emerge will be only a slightly tweaked version of Grusendorf's unsuccessful House Bill 2. It reduces property taxes by a third while producing, Grusendorf estimates, more than $3 billion in new revenues.

Does that mean we'll all end up paying less total taxes? Don't bet on it. The cash has to come from somewhere, the most likely candidates being a higher consumer tax -- read that as higher sales taxes -- and also higher business taxes, all of which ultimately are also paid by consumers. In this we are reminded of one of the most eternal bits of wisdom: There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Some further reading on this from this weekend:

Is it the Texas Tax Reform Commission or the Texas Political Cover Commission?

Here's what the ruling didn't fix, Focusing on taxes, not schools:
Whatever the merits of last week's Texas Supreme Court ruling on public school finance, it cannot compel Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick to compromise. Nor can it endow Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst with the moral authority (and political terror) that the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock could bring to solving knotty state problems. And the court's ruling did not inspire Gov. Rick Perry to expand his ambition for public education beyond cutting school property taxes.

As a result, the next special session of the Legislature called by the governor to deal, yet again, with public school finance likely will focus on tax cuts, not quality education. That might be OK if Texans could expect genuine, equitable reform of the state's antiquated tax system, but recent experience cautions against hope.


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