Silver bullets are hard to find

Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden’s proposal for a statewide property tax was ignored by the Legislature in 2006 when lawmakers enacted, instead, Gov. Rick Perry’s Starve the Public Schools Act.

Now, Ogden says he will try again next year. TSTA will wait and see the details of Ogden’s filed legislation before taking an official stance because, as we all know, the Devil (or whatever) is in the details. But here are a few observations.

The statewide property tax idea may have more traction this time because of the $21 billion revenue shortfall and because it is a way for the Legislature to pass the buck on school finance to voters. Constitutional amendments have to be approved by voters – if they get the necessary twothirds majority in the House and the Senate.

The governor, it should be noted, cannot veto a constitutional amendment. Only the voters can.

Would a statewide property tax produce an adequate and equitable school finance system?

Who knows? If the tax rate isn’t high enough, it wouldn’t be adequate. And if local districts were allowed a significant amount of leeway to raise local property taxes, it may not be equitable.

Winning voter approval of any new tax, even if it largely replaces existing taxes, would be iffy in the current political and economic climate. And, realistically, there wouldn’t be enough time for the Legislature and the voters to approve a constitutional amendment offering budgetstrapped school districts any relief for the 20102011 school year.

Has Ogden found a silver bullet? Probably not.


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