December 09, 2007
And in other news, Governor Perry's property tax cut claims are still phony

Much as I like to see Governor Perry and his malarkey about the property tax cuts get smacked down, I rather wish there weren't so much space given in the story to those who seem to see tax cuts as an entitlement for themselves. As I see it, the reason we're in such a fix over paying for education and other necessary services is because of whiners like Michael Kubosh and Paul Bettencourt and the outsized influence they have on the discourse. So I'm just going to skip over their palaver and get to the important parts of the article, which follow after that.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said the tax plan didn't solve the school finance problems and didn't raise enough money to meet the state's growing needs.

"I'm not sure anybody (in the Legislature) believed the $2,000 figure, certainly nobody who had seen the math," Whitmire said. "The bottom line is we have a broken tax system. We're just not keeping up with our growth."


[T]he amount of savings that Perry touted won't come to average homeowners because the governor's claim was based on home sales prices, which tend to be higher than actual taxable values. The calculation also did not account for ever-rising property values or school bond issues, which are repaid by a part of the tax rate unaffected by the new caps.

Perry's TV ad clarified the $2,000 was money taxpayers would save over three years; the radio spots had no such caveat.

Sorry, I have to interrupt here for a second before I get to the best part. "Ever-rising property values"? Do the words "subprime mortgage crisis" (or if you prefer, Big Shitpile) mean anything to you? It's true that property values have generally increased around here. Anyone who thinks that's true for everyone or forever needs to re-enroll in Econ 101.

Back to the best bit:

Homeowners with more expensive homes will save most.

An $800,000 home in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district, for example, would have produced a tax savings of about $5,083 over the last two years.

The legislative response to the Supreme Court order for a new education finance plan was not about adequately funding schools, said state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, a school finance expert.

"It was about reducing property taxes, primarily for the owners of the most expensive homes," Hochberg said.

Hochberg, Bettencourt and other tax experts predict a continuing saga because school funding formulas benefit the state when property values go up. Local taxpayers owe more to their schools, but the state then sends them less state money for public education.

"It's not just Alamo Heights and Spring Branch and Highland Park in Dallas. It's every school district," Bettencourt said.

Local governments typically use increased property values to cover inflation "so they can at least stay even, but for school districts, if their values go up, they don't get the benefit of that," Hochberg said. "That benefit accrues to the state. Instead of putting that money into local school district budgets, we send that directly back to tax relief, which means the districts then have to turn around and raise the tax rate, and there goes the savings.

"The governor takes credit for tax relief while pushing the true costs back into the hands of the local school board members, who now have to take the blame for raising taxes just to stay even," Hochberg said.

I couldn't have said it better myself. There really isn't anything else in that story you need to read.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 09, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo