tax relief

Want to lower your property taxes? Don’t vote for Abbott or Patrick


Some political promises are predictable…and worthless. Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow, during last weekend’s debate, to provide “relief” for property taxpayers was predictable. It was just as predictable as the fact that he won’t provide a cent of real relief if he is reelected to another term.

Lupe Valdez, the governor’s Democratic opponent, correctly pointed out during the debate that you can’t address the problem of high property taxes without increasing state funding for public schools, which Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and their legislative allies repeatedly have refused to do. And if they are reelected in November, they will continue to profess concern for high property taxes while continuing to under-fund public education.

Texas schools have two main sources of funding – state revenue and local property taxes – and, as I have noted before, the state’s share has been steadily declining under Abbott’s watch. The state’s share of the Foundation School Program is expected to hit a low of 38 percent during this school year, with local property taxpayers paying 62 percent.

If the governor really wanted to provide relief to local taxpayers, he would have demanded that the Legislature increase its share of education funding, but he never has. Just last year, he joined with Patrick to slam the door on a bill approved by the Texas House that would have increased state education funding by $1.9 billion during the current budget period.

Instead, Abbott and Patrick support a phony form of tax “relief” that would put arbitrary restrictions on the ability of local elected officials, including city councils, to raise the revenue their constituents need for essential public services. Those efforts so far have failed, but they will continue if Abbott and Patrick are reelected. Both will continue to pretend to hate the high property taxes that they love to see you have to pay.

Abbott and Patrick love those increases in your property taxes


Rising property values and property tax bills may be pricing you out of your home, but Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and their allies in the Legislature don’t care because your local tax bills help them do a couple of things.

First, your school property taxes help them balance the state budget, the entire state budget, not just the public education portion of the budget. They could even use your school taxes to help subsidize incentives for a multi-billion-dollar corporation they are trying to lure to Texas.

And, second, your property taxes help them avoid having to raise the sales tax and other state taxes, so they can keep bragging about being fiscally “responsible.” Sure, it’s a political con game, but they are betting they can get away with it on Election Day.

Here is how Abbott and Patrick have been abusing Texas’ system of using both state and local funds to pay for education.

Not too many years ago, the state used to split the cost of education, more or less, with local property taxpayers. But that has changed. During the years that Abbott and Patrick have been in office, they have allowed the state’s share to continue to slide and the local share to increase. The disparity has reached the point that, according to the Legislative Budget Board, local property taxpayers will be paying 62 percent of the Foundation School Program, the basic school finance plan, and the state will be paying only 38 percent during the current school year.

This growing disparity is facilitated by current law, which Abbott, Patrick and their legislative allies could change but have refused to do so. Instead, they prefer to hide behind it.

The law automatically reduces the state’s share of education funding as local property tax revenue increases. And property tax revenue continues to increase, driven primarily by rising property values. Even if local school boards haven’t raised property tax rates, tax bills in many school districts are increasing anyway because of the higher property values.

The issue is further compounded by the so-called Robin Hood law that requires property-wealthy districts to share revenue with poorer districts. That law, enacted in 1993, was designed to reduce inequities in educational opportunities among districts, but it has become outdated.

The severity of the funding imbalance was highlighted last week when the Texas Education Agency, in a preliminary budget presentation, estimated the state’s share of education funding could drop more than $3.5 billion during the next two-year budget period, primarily because of those rising property values.

That doesn’t have to happen. The governor, the lieutenant governor and the Legislature could change the law. But this governor, this lieutenant governor and a majority of recent Legislatures have refused to do so, and unless new state leaders are elected on Election Day, the law is likely to remain unchanged. And local property taxpayers are going to continue to be hammered.

If the state increased its share of education funding, local property values may continue to rise, but some local school boards could offer real property tax relief by reducing tax rates and overall tax bills.

Abbott and Patrick claim they want to provide property tax “relief,” but they don’t. All they have ever offered are arbitrary restraints to limit the ability of locally elected officials to adequately meet public needs.

They pass the buck for school funding to property taxpayers and the blame for property taxes to local governments. It’s a con game that can only be ended by retiring them and their allies on Election Day.

Vote Education First!



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!


Tax bill would kill deduction for student loan interest, promote vouchers


Elections have consequences, and some more of them are showing up in anti-educator and anti-student provisions in the tax bill drafted by the Republican majority in Congress.

Not only would the bill repeal the $250 tax deduction that under-paid teachers are now afforded for purchasing classroom supplies out of their own pockets, it also would kill the deduction that teachers and millions of other Americans have been able to take for interest on their student loans.

The interest deduction has been as much as $2,500 a year, but it would be wiped off the books. That would increase costs for college loan borrowers by as much as $24 billion over the next 10 years, according to the American Council of Education, which represents 1,600 colleges and universities.

The tax bill also would promote a back-door approach to private school vouchers by allowing taxpayers of any income level to set aside as much as $10,000 a year in tax-free accounts for expenses at private K-12 schools. These tax breaks, which would benefit the wealthy more than anyone else, would drain federal dollars from government programs, including public schools, where the vast majority of children will continue to be educated.

All in all, the tax bill is a poorly disguised attempt to further enrich the top 1 percent and corporations at the expense of educators, students, their families and other middle- and lower-income taxpayers. Use the following link to tell  your representative in Congress that you oppose this bill.

Urge your member of Congress to oppose this tax bill

GOP tax bill would kill deduction for student loan interest