No matter what you believe are the merits of the so-called “tax swap” plan being pushed late in the legislative session by Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen, in which we would raise the state’s sales tax to then replace a certain amount of locally levied school property taxes with state-collected money, there are certain truths that need to be recognized about the proposal:
First is that we only need such this session to make the school finance plan and the tax reform plan work, because Republican legislators have shown little desire to limit spending to money available. That’s a particularly nasty indictment given that money available is at a massive, record increase due to the booming economy.
Second, the school finance reform isn’t reform as much as it is a huge handout to the public school folk with little, if any, required improvement in education outcomes or district financial management. It is this huge handout that has legislators short of the cash they’d like to have to provide immediate property tax relief through a state buydown of local school property taxes.
Third, political leaders have put themselves way too far out in front of voters on the sales tax increase to lower school-levied property taxes. It is a policy I generally favor but, even liking the idea, I cannot support it without knowing the detail. Tom Giovanetti of IPI had it right when he wrote: “We have no objection in principle to a revenue neutral tax swap … The devil is in the details, however.”
The “Big Three” leaders have ridden so far out in front of voters and legislators on this that you’d have to find their tracks to follow them.
Falling in love with a good idea in politics without bringing everyone along with you as it develops is almost always a bad idea doomed to fail.
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