By: The Houston Chronicle Editorial Board
Do you hear that giant sucking sound going up U.S. 290? Its the sound of our state government in Austin slurping up your local school taxes.
Last week, the Texas Education Agency projected that the state will spend $3.5 billion less in general revenue funds on education over the next couple of years.
That s because the local property tax revenues are expected to go through the roof rising by about 6.8 percent each year. As property tax revenues rise, the state cuts its share of school funding. More of the tax burden is left on the shoulders of homeowners and businesses. Or, to put it bluntly: You pay billions more in property taxes so that the state can pay billions less and your local school district ends up with the same amount of money.
That doesn’t t seem fair, but its what the state planned. The biennial budget was balanced on the presumption of a nearly 14 percent hike in property taxes. Texas needs to reverse the flow on the school funding pipeline and start sending more state dollars down to local school districts. Considering how important education is to Texas future, and how much voters hate the inexplicable rise in property taxes year after year, you would think state leaders would be laser-focused on fixing our school finance system.
Unfortunately, they reacting more like the kids in the classroom s back row who would rather goof off than pay attention to their work. Gov. Greg Abbott announced earlier this month that he wants to pass an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would ban the possibility of an income tax. That s a bit like saying he s going to spend July preparing for the next major blizzard in Brownsville. Texas doesn’t have an income tax, but we do have a broken property tax system.
At the Christian Values Summit in The Woodlands this week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick chose to relitigate his infamous bathroom bill the last thing Texas needs. It’s not as if Texas is wanting for ideas on how to fix our school funding system. In meetings with the Houston Chronicle editorial board, several House Republicans discussed the idea of the state growing its share of the public school budget and giving local districts the flexibility to lower their property tax rates.
Mike Collier, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, has proposed closing the so-called Equal and Uniform loophole that unfairly shifts the tax burden from commercial properties onto homeowners. We could list other fixes, but the state Legislature has to pass them and the governor has to sign them. Abbott and Patrick showed little interest during the last session.
When it comes to funding schools, it’s about time Texans learned our lesson: If we want new ideas, we’re going to need new leaders.