WEST COMMENTS ON SCHOOL FINANCE BILLS
AUSTIN, Texas -- As six bills relating to school finance and property tax reform move towards the floor of the Texas Senate, Senator West (D-Dallas) issued the following statement:
"Ever since the Supreme Court ruled our current system of public school finance unconstitutional, I have worked closely with my colleagues in the Legislature to craft a new system of public school finance that reduces property taxes while still ensuring a quality education for Texas schoolchildren.
While the six bills currently under consideration by the Senate each have individual merit, they must be analyzed as a complete bill package. Unfortunately, the cumulative effect of that package damages our schools and threatens the financial flexibility of our state in the future.
H.B. 3 proposes a new tax structure that, by dedicating revenue solely for property tax relief and school finance, ties the legislature's hands when it comes to funding other areas of the state budget. Should there ever be a crisis in funding for health and human services, or a shortfall for child protective services, should state parks needs funds to stay open, or should we ever need to add a new prison or new university, then our hands will be tied, and the only available funding source for these important areas will be the state sales tax.
Our sales tax already represents 57.8% of all the revenue we spend. As the most regressive tax on the books - and one of the highest sales taxes in the country - I believe we should hold the line at that percentage so we don't hurt the pocketbooks of working families and poorer Texans. Should we ever again - God forbid - experience an economic downturn as we did after September 11, or after the collapse of oil prices in the 1980's, then we'll only be able to balance the books by underfunding universities, knocking kids off the CHIP rolls, closing parks, and eliminating vital services.
H.B. 1, while reducing property tax, does not significantly address issues of equity or a teacher pay raise that the majority of Texans have consistently told us should be part of any education reform.
I cannot, in good conscience, support legislation that balances the future needs of this state solely on the backs of working families and our middle class while benefitting big business and the top income tier. I cannot vote for bills that put short term gain against the long-term prospects of our state's prosperity. And I cannot vote for a package of bills that locks the box and throws away the key that gives the state the flexibility to deal with any future budgetary shortfall."
For more information, please contact Kelvin Bass at 214-467-0123 or David Quin at 512-463-0123.