Monday, January 09, 2006

Early Word From Today's TTRC Hearingg

Two things from today's hearing seem to be sticking out. First this headline says it all, Lower property taxes won't satisfy court ruling, expert says. Here's the details:
Giving homeowners a break may be a good idea politically, said Ted Cruz, Texas' solicitor general who represents the state in the school funding lawsuit. But as a legal matter, lowering property taxes presents a new funding challenge to lawmakers without addressing the court order, he said.

Lowering the school property tax cap from $1.50 per $100 of property value has been the benchmark of numerous failed school funding proposals during the last three years. Simply lowering the cap won't make the system comply with the Texas Supreme Court's opinion on what would be legal, Cruz said.

The tax cap was intended to be a locally levied tax. But the Texas Supreme Court ruled that school districts no longer have discretion to set their own rates because they are required to fund state and federal education mandates — which eat up much of the property tax revenue — and still not tax above the cap.

The rate has become both a minimum and maximum taxing level, the court ruled. That amounts to a prohibited statewide property tax, which makes the system unconstitutional.

Until districts have discretion to set their own rates, the tax remains illegal, Cruz said.

That means that if lawmakers choose to replace property taxes with new tax revenues, but still lower the cap, districts would still be forced to tax at the new cap and wouldn't have the flexibility to set their own rates.

Cruz said lawmakers could bring the state into compliance by dropping some state mandates to ease spending requirements. Additionally, school districts could gain flexibility to set their tax rates if lawmakers gave them more money and removed the property tax cap, Cruz said.
To paraphrase, lowering the property tax cap and local districts still having to tax at the maximum rate to meet state and federal funding mandates doesn't give the local districts the ability to set their own rate. Wow! Who saw that coming.

The other part of this story is that Speaker Craddick gave a speech at the right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) on Monday as well:
House Speaker Tom Craddick said lawmakers have "a chance of a lifetime" to build a lasting system.

"It's a chance to fix the system, not just dump more money into it, but to actually fix the system where the children of this state now and the ones behind it will have the opportunity to get a better education," Craddick said Monday, speaking to a meeting of a conservative think-tank.
Vouchers won't do that Mr. Speaker. And I just loved this part:
The tax reform commission, made up of state business leaders appointed by Perry, has been holding public hearings around the state, taking input as it crafts recommendations for new business and consumer taxes. Monday in Austin, a group of high-powered attorneys from around the state addressed the panel about various proposals their entities would favor.
I just love the thought of a bunch of Perry appointed business "leaders" scheming about how to devise a way to raise their taxes and MINE!

I should have commentary in the next few days from someone who went.

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