Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: Ejamucashun reform, Texas style .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ejamucashun reform, Texas style

In the wake of the Carole Keeton Strayhorn's estimate of an $8.2 billion surplus in the state budget, the fighting 79th (yet another sequel) approved $2.4 billion for school property tax relief in a stopgap measure designed to put a bandaid on our ailing school system. Of course, this does nothing toward providing adequate pay for teachers, enough books to go around, or habitable classrooms, but it provides lawmakers with good sound bites in an election year.

"We can go home and tell the people
that we have reduced the property taxes, that the schools will stay open in June," said Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa.

"We're here to lower property taxes
," [Rep. Patrick] Rose said. "The quicker we do that, the sooner we can work on education reforms."

They also tentatively approved business tax expansion by an 11 vote margin (wanna guess who was for and against?), shrinking loopholes so only the shrewdest of businesspersons will be able to avoid it. Unless you're a doctor - er, I mean "health care provider" - 'cuz then you're exempt.

Perry butt-kisser Beverly Woolley (R-Houston) managed to slide in a provision that the good news of property tax reduction will be announced to voters - er, I mean taxpayers - by Perry's Secretary of State, whose office has nothing to do with taxes. It should be announced by the Comptroller, but that happens to be Perry's opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial election, Carole Keeton Strayhorn. Woolley claims it's for transparency. She's right, 'cause it's very transparent to me. Perry wants voters to get the good news from him, at taxpayer expense, right before the November election.

Some questioned the propriety of allowing the letter to come from the office that handles elections rather than tax issues.

The office that normally handles taxes is held by Perry's November opponent in the governor's race, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

The letter would likely go out to voters just before November election day, this year only.

Still on the agenda for this special session is a cigarette tax increase that started out strong, but has been filtered so much that the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society have withdrawn their support of it. There's also a shrewd plot to capture sales tax from auto sales by taxing blue book value on cars sold, rather than the sale price.

Funny, but I don't see anything that says the Lege is fixing the school system. Wasn't that what the special session is supposed to be all about? Oh, I forgot - this is an election year. We can't fix the school system without raising taxes, and no one is going to risk re-election by even mentioning it. Especially with all those grass-roots republigoons hanging around the capitol holding the sign on the "L" on their foreheads to show solidarity.

For more information on these issues, check out Capital Annex for an analysis of House Bills 1 through 5, and a comprehensive history of school finance in Texas.

Also, Eye on Williamson County has a primer for yesterday's House debate.


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