A Republican state representative from Plano is working hard to sell his school finance plan. Sadly, the data released about the bill’s tax impact contradicts what the lawmaker is telling his constituents.
House Bill 3—known colloquially as “The Texas Plan”—would spend the majority of the state’s $9 billion surplus on increasing public education funding. Only 30 percent, or $2.7 billion, would be used to lower school property tax rates.
One of the selling points used by those promoting HB 3 is that the measure would “reduce” the state’s reliance on “Robin Hood” by 38 percent. Robin Hood is the unpopular law that overtaxes Texans in certain districts to help pay to educate children in public schools elsewhere. State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Plano), who represents portions of Plano and Allen Independent School Districts, recently sent the following to his constituents:
“[HB 3] puts into motion approximately $6 billion in additional funding beyond enrollment growth and increases the basic allotment per student, while lowering school district property rates by an average of 5.5% statewide through a $2.7 billion investment. Further, [it] reduces “Robin Hood” by 38%, directs more tax dollars to the classroom… “
The “38 percent” reduction in recapture claim is false.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the amount “recaptured” statewide in the current biennium (2018-19) is estimated to exceed $4.74 billion. Under HB 3, lawmakers claim total recapture would remain at $4.7 billion over the next two years (2020-21) rather than increasing to more than $7 billion.
While the measure would prevent recapture from increasing beyond the status quo, it would not reduce recapture 38 percent from current levels. Despite these facts, lawmakers such as Leach continue to parrot the misleading claim to make the proposal sound like an improvement to Robin Hood. But it isn’t.
How would HB 3 impact Leach’s home district of Plano ISD? It would not significantly reduce the amount recaptured from current levels over the next two years; at least not according to the estimates released by State Rep. Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood), the bill’s primary author.
In the current biennium (2018-19), Plano ISD taxpayers will pay approximately $366 million in total recapture taxes. Under HB 3, the total amount recaptured over the next biennium (2020-21) would be roughly the same, at $361 million. That’s a 1.5 percent net decrease, not 38 percent.
Even worse, HB 3 would result in an annual recapture amount of $202 million from PISD taxpayers in 2021, which is $47 million higher than the massive $155 million recaptured in 2018, and near the all-time peak of $211 million in 2019.
To actually reduce recapture from current levels, lawmakers should use more of the state’s $9 billion surplus on school tax relief, rather than on a historic spending spree. Keep in mind that while Leach and others claim the spending increases are “for the classroom,” districts will still have ultimate control over where the money is spent. The funds are not guaranteed to increase teacher pay.
Regardless, Leach and other lawmakers should not make misleading claims about the impact of their proposals. Lawmakers who insist on parroting false claims will further alienate constituents who have grown tired of double-talk from officials.
Texans deserve the truth, not spin.