As QR’s Harvey Kronberg so aptly pointed out yesterday, with the resignation of Tom Suehs from the Health and Human Service (HHS), it leaves both HHS and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) leaderless. Two of Texas’ most important agencies.
Vacancies now at the two largest state government agencies — TEA and HHS — with a whole heap of challenges in store for the new leadership at HHS
Today’s jarring news that Tom Suehs is leaving as chairman of Health and Human Services later this summer means another experienced hand in state government is leaving the tiller. He joins his Medicaid chief Billy Millwee who is also leaving his post in August. And, of course, these leadership changes are mirrored in public ed where Education Commissioner Robert Scott steps down next month and the chairmen of both legislative education committees won’t be returning next session.
I’m sure Perry and the wing-nuts see this as the bathtub being half-full. It’s their opportunity of a lifetime, and their not going to let it go to waste.
It’s hard not to see what’s being setup here. I’m sure privatization schemes, that rival the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), will soon be coming for health care and education. Medicaid/Medicare and public education have always been the main targets of the “conservative” movement.
Perrys’ picks to replace Suehs and Scott will likely be right wing and pro-privatization. And it’s likely, no matter how the Speaker and US Senate/Lt. Gov. races turnout, that the committee chairs will be more right wing and pro-privatization. So cuts and privatization will likely be the proposed “fixes” for these two long-beloved public programs in our democracy.
It’s key to understand thr “The Public is necessary for The Private“. Without quality public education, the private sector will not have its needed, well educated,workforce. Also without an educated populace democracy struggles, at best, or at worst dies.
But not only are privatization schemes like the TTC coming, there’s more. Another tax swap scheme, like the one in 2006 that created an annual structural budget deficit, to finish filling up the bathtub. State Lawmaker Wants to Abolish Texas Property Taxes.
State Rep. Harvey Hilderbrann (R-Kerrville) tells 1200 WOAI news that he will introduce a measure in the upcoming legislative session to begin the process of abolishing residential and commercial property taxes, which are the largest income generator for local governments and schools.
Hilderbrann chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the key committee in dealing with tax issues and tax reform.
“There is no way we are going to abolish property taxes overnight,” Hilderbrann told 1200 WOAI news. “It would be a long term project. We need to first reduce the growth in property tax revenues being used for schools.”
So far there is no proposal to replace the property tax, which provides a majority of revenue for school districts, and about 40% of the revenue to local governments. It also accounts for up to 100% of the revenue for agencies like hospital and water districts.
“You have such a large amount of revenue that you have to replace, certainly not over a short period of time, and probably not over a long period of time,” Hilderbrann said.
But he said that is no reason not to start discussing alternatives to property taxes, which he says are the biggest barriers to economic growth.Tea Party groups oppose property taxes, saying they turn people into ‘squatters in their own homes’ due to the need to pay the government.
Texas has no state income tax, so the property tax looms even larger in revenue projections. There is a proposal on the table to double the state’s portion of the sales tax, which is now about 6.25%, to replace the revenue lost by abolishing property taxes.
“If you were just to do away with school property taxes, you would have to replace it with something that would generate billions and billions of dollars,” Hilderbrann said.
To put this in perspective most states fund their government with a balance of three taxes major taxes – sales, property, and income. Texas doesn’t have an income tax, has an under performing business tax causing annual shortages, and now we’re supposed to start looking at doing away with the property tax. That not only makes no sense it’s crazy.
Let’s boil down what Hilderbran is saying. As we face another budget shortfall, it’s time to begin the long process of abolishing the property tax in Texas. But first we need to cut education spending more, (reduce the growth in property tax revenues being used for schools). Because the property tax provides the majority of the money for public education. It’s a lot of money to replace (over $40 billion/yr.), and if it was just done away with it would have to be replaced by something that would generate many billions of dollars. And the only suggestion offered is to double the sales tax.
It’s hard to find the starting point for attacking this, but here goes. Texas already has one of the most regressive tax systems in the United States. Which means the less money a person makes in Texas the higher a percentage of their income they pay in taxes, and vice versa. The main reason for that is because our sales tax is so high. The sales tax is a very regressive tax. Another reason is because Texas does not have an income tax, one of the fairest taxes. The property tax is a much less regressive/fairer tax then the sales tax. Which makes it easy to see that removing the property tax and replacing it with a higher sales tax would hurt poor, working and middle class Texans, while making it better for wealthy Texans. (See Who Pays Texas Taxes).
The best option for The Public would be to bring down property taxes with a state income tax.
The quality of life in Texas depends on our producing a well-educated workforce that can meet the demands of a global economy. A strong and vibrant public education for all Texas children is an essential precondition for a prepared workforce and a prosperous, competitive economy. In fact, providing public education is one of the constitutionally mandated charges of the state legislature. However, the state?s current revenue system is not providing adequate funding to fulfill this charge. Adding a personal state income tax to our tax mix is the best way to meet our needs.
But an income tax will never enter the debate as long as the right wing runs our state. The current policy debates in Texas are not about what’s best for the people of Texas. They’re about getting rid of government and The Public. Perry, and the Texas GOP truly believe that corporations will do a better job of educating our kids and providing health care. And that’s why the assault will continue.