Gov. Perry, Robin Hood And The TTRCLooking over what has transpired since the legislature last worked on school finance it's hard to see what, if anything, has changed. With Gov. Perry's greatest priority - property tax relief/school finance reform - still not taken care of we are back to where we were a year ago. We still have a deadline to get a deal done - and supposedly they mean it this time - teachers still need a raise, etc. Two things have changed though: the governor has appointed a commission and the public is more weary.
So what is the plan? It appears it's to pretend last year didn't happen. Armed with a Texas Supreme Court ruling that Republicans believe validated what they attempted to push through during the sessions this year - which was soundly rejected - as yesterday's Texas Tax Reform Commission (TTRC) hearing shows - we're right back to where we started:
..an expansion of the sales tax to most services and a new, broad-based tax on businesses. The plan also would increase the state taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, and require full disclosure of real estate sale prices.I always love the thought of people going to the casinos to pay for schools. I'd rather sell candy. Anyway, back to the point at hand, now that we are back to raising sales taxes and adding sales tax to previously untaxed items, sin taxes, and the always popular, at least to Republican paymasters, raising business taxes. Don't forget where this got us during all the wrangling this past year. For all that was attempted EVERY plan put forward by the Republicans would have lowered the overall tax burden on the wealthy and raised taxes on the poor and middle class. That shouldn't surprise anyone because that's what Republicans do after all.
Other witnesses urged the panel to consider expansion of gambling in the state as a less painful way to raise revenue for schools.
One Republican, Rep. Paxton, has even gone so far as to interpret the court ruling to say this:
The Texas Supreme Court recently ruled that the current "Robin Hood" tax system for funding education is unconstitutional.Which is not the case at all, Robin Hood still stands:
"This is a lose and win situation right now," LISD Board President Fred Placke said. "It was expected to be a very strategic ruling but they didn't do a whole lot of anything. We still have to give the money and the Robin Hood law is still in the hand of the Legislature. It kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth."What this means to me is that the Republicans are going to use the SC ruling to try to justify a lot of crap that ain't true and force through, again, the same plan from last year. While saying that They're only doing it because we have to do something before the schools close.
One more thing before I go:
I'm going to keep harping on this until something changes. Yesterday there were two meetings of the TTRC. One in Victoria and the other in Corpus Christi - you can see the stories to each by clicking on the city name. My point in highlighting this is that when the TTRC was announced everyone was going to be heard. Then of course the commissioners were announced, aka, the corporate all-stars. Not to worry, they were going to travel around the state to get everyone's input. Well so far I don't think the hearing dates, times and sites have been very well publicized. Here is the governor's press release on these two hearings, it gave people four whole days to prepare. If you look at the turnout yesterday (about 50 in Victoria, about 20 in Corpus Christi). I don't think everyone is showing up and getting heard. One thing I've been harping on is the need to create a website for the TTRC. Then many more people could participate. Why can't they have some evening hearings so those that work 9 to 5 can make hearings? Are we supposed to check back at the governor's website for the specifics for the future hearings? A website would also offer a place to put up hearing transcripts, specifics for future hearings, and maybe even a place for citizens to comment or contact the commissioners. It's almost like they're making it hard for people to participate.
[UPDATE]The Texas Tax Reform Commission has it's website up, here it is. It looks pretty good, has contact info and links for meeting dates. I hope they put up hearing transcripts.