Glenn Hegar

Trying to defend the indefensible – Dan Patrick and high property taxes


As state senators in 2011, Dan Patrick and Glenn Hegar both voted for a state budget that slashed $5.4 billion in state funding from public education, thereby increasing pressure on local property taxpayers to fund schools. Now, Patrick, as lieutenant governor, and Hegar, as state comptroller, both claim to be concerned – wink, wink, nod, nod – that property taxes are so high.

Patrick’s phony “concern” is already well-known. Every time the Legislature meets, he proposes an unrealistic, political scheme to tie the hands of local elected officials, who set property tax rates to meet local needs, while blaming them for the property tax mess. In truth, Patrick is the culprit, ramming through state budgets that deliberately under-fund public education and transfer increasing amounts of the school funding burden to property taxes.

Ever since Patrick and his comrade-in-school neglect, Gov. Greg Abbott, have held the state’s top two offices, the state’s share of funding public education has steadily declined, while the share borne by local property taxpayers has risen. During the upcoming school year, the state share of the Foundation School Program will fall to 38 percent, while the local share will rise to 62 percent, the Legislative Budget Board has projected.

Mike Collier, Patrick’s TSTA-endorsed election opponent, called out the lieutenant governor for his false property tax relief claims in a recent oped in the Texas Tribune.  “To put it in Texas language, Dan Patrick keeps raising property taxes and lying about it,” Collier wrote.

Hegar then hurried to Patrick’s defense with a Tribune oped of his own, in which he claimed to “set the record straight” about Patrick and property taxes. He discussed the law governing how property values are determined for school districts and suggested that alone was the main reason that property taxes are so high.

Rising property values, of course, are a major factor in rising property tax levels. But Hegar neglected to point out that school boards could lower property tax rates and the overall property tax burden if Patrick, Abbott and their legislative allies would change the outdated school finance system and increase state funding for education. Patrick slammed the door on that idea as recently as last year, which was the last time the Legislature met.

Patrick has no credibility as a property tax reducer, and Hegar is damaging his every time he comes to Patrick’s defense.

Vote Education First!


Legislature has 2.8 billion new reasons to boost school funding, but…


State Comptroller Glenn Hegar has given the Legislature 2.8 billion new reasons for spending more state money – without raising taxes – on public schools and other programs that are important to the vast majority of Texans. But that doesn’t mean that the people who will control next year’s legislative session will do that.

Because of economic growth and rising oil prices, the comptroller has raised his revenue estimate by $2.8 billion for the current budget period. If the revised estimate holds true, it will mean a bigger pot of money for the Legislature to spend on education, health care, transportion, Hurricane Harvey relief and other public services when the new state budget is written next year.

Hegar also predicted an $11.85 billion balance in the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s savings account, when the current budget period ends.

There will be a lot of competition for the extra money when legislators start drafting the new budget. And there is no guarantee that leaders such as Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick, if they are still in office, will be any more willing to boost state education funding than they have been in previous sessions.

Remember, the state’s share of public school funding has steadily declined under their watch and is projected to soon drop below 40 percent, while the lion’s share for local taxpayers grows bigger. Abbott, Patrick and their allies have even refused to dip into the Rainy Day Fund despite growing financial emergencies in many school districts.

So, the $2.8 billion bump in the revenue estimate is an important figure. But an even more important figure will be the number of education friendly candidates who are elected to the Legislature in November. The more legislators who are truly dedicated to public schools, the greater the chance of those schools sharing in some of that $2.8 billion.

TSTA-PAC already has endorsed a number of education friendly candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, and likely will endorse more this summer.

So stay tuned, check our endorsement list and when election time rolls around this fall, Vote Education First!

Yes, budget cuts have consequences


As legislators, Glenn Hegar and Ken Paxton were champion budget-cutters. They voted to slash $5.4 billion from public schools in 2011 and, to the delight of their right-win constituencies, hacked their way through numerous other budgets as well.

Now, Hegar is the new state comptroller, and Paxton is the new Texas attorney general, and guess what? They aren’t slashing away at budgets anymore. Instead, they are complaining about how their past budget cuts have hurt the facilities and working conditions at the agencies they now head. Their plight would be amusing, were it not so serious for everyone else.

“Duh, no fooling,” is my message to both. But why did it take a slap of reality for these two tea party darlings to pull their heads out of the sand and realize that budget cuts have consequences?

In recent articles in The Texas Tribune and the Austin American-Statesman, Paxton complained about elevators that didn’t work and leaking roofs damaging computer servers, while Hegar said he was concerned about “basic sanitation” and an employee who had to get rabies shots after coming in contact with one of the bats flying in her building.

I feel for the employees in their agencies and am concerned about how Hegar’s and Paxton’s tight-fisted attitude as legislators is affecting the quality of their agencies’ public services now.

I also am concerned about how the Legislature’s “deferred maintenance” policy has resulted in deplorable and unsafe living conditions in mental health hospitals and the Texas School for the Deaf.

And, I am concerned about how those school budget cuts of four years ago, although partially restored, are still affecting educators and students in overcrowded, under-equipped classrooms. And, don’t forget the thousands of former teachers and school employees who lost their jobs.

I am not concerned about Hegar and Paxton, but I hope their complaints as agency heads bring better results than their politics as legislators did.