I doubt that Dan Patrick has ever had a bad idea that he didn’t try to make worse. First, he was trying to fool voters into thinking that he would lower school property taxes in a “swap” for higher sales taxes, an idea that would have been bad enough for public education. But during last night’s debate of lieutenant governor candidates, he dropped even the pretense of a tax trade.
Now, he has made it clear that he wants to lower school and other local property taxes and abolish or significantly reduce the state’s main business tax (the margins tax) while raising the sales tax only a “penny or two.” In other words, Patrick wants to complete the job of gutting school funding AND cripple budgets for cities, counties and hospital districts, which also rely on the property tax as a major source of revenue. That is what Leticia Van de Putte, Patrick’s opponent, pointed out during the debate, and she was absolutely correct.
A modest increase in the sales tax, which Patrick suggested, wouldn’t come close to closing the huge revenue shortfall that would be left by lowering property taxes and cutting revenue from the margins tax. But it would force Texans to pay more every time they went out to eat or needed to buy new clothes, new furniture, another computer or thousands of other items.
Meanwhile, many teachers would lose their jobs, as would police officers, firefighters and other critical employees we have come to take for granted. Taking Patrick at his word, many neighborhood schools would be forced to close, and thousands of children would be forced into overcrowded classes on unfamiliar campuses farther from home – and with less police and fire protection.
Patrick is an opportunist who would – and does – promise right-wing, anti-government ideologues anything he thinks will help him advance up the public payroll ladder. Wipe out public schools? Sure, no problem, Patrick says, just so we save enough tax dollars to pay for private school vouchers.
Even before entering the lieutenant governor’s race, Patrick was well on the way to torching public education. He voted for the $5.4 billion in school budget cuts in 2011 and voted against the entire state budget, including ALL funding for education, in 2013 – and later lied about “leading” an effort for education funding. That whopper was so bad the Austin American-Statesman, in its PolitiFact column, gave Patrick a “Pants on Fire!” rating.
The only thing Patrick wants to lead is the continuing effort to throw Texas over the cliff, aided and abetted not only by Tea Partiers, but also by people who should know better, including some of the state’s insider business organizations.
Most business people understand the importance of a strong public education system to the state’s economy and business prosperity. But some Austin-based groups, notably the Texas Association of Business (TAB), continue to moan and groan about low test scores while supporting Patrick and questioning the need for additional school revenue, even though thousands of grade school classes exceed the state limit on capacity.
TAB and other Austin insider groups have been supporting education budget-cutters for years because, truth be told, they are more interested in currying favors – low taxes, lax government regulations and protections from consumer lawsuits — than they are in promoting quality classrooms. In that regard, they have found a champion in Dan Patrick. But too bad for the rest of us.