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March 14th, 2004:

Piling on Perry

As he departs for sunny Italy, Governor Perry is getting another pounding in the editorial pages. Here’s a little sample to brighten your day.

From the Dallas Morning News:

Gov. Rick Perry’s proposal to put a 3 percent annual cap on homestead appraisal increases could lead Texas into its own Cali-hell. The same is true of his proposal to put a tight cap on the amount that counties and cites could raise through property taxes. California suffered mightily after voters passed Proposition 13 and capped the growth in property taxes in 1978. The state’s renowned schools coughed, sputtered and collapsed as they gasped for cash. Not until two decades later were Californians able to correct their mistake.

To be sure, the governor’s proposals sound tempting. All of our property taxes are high. That’s because Texas relies heavily on them to fund schools, build bridges and treat the sick. It’s natural to think, hey, leave me alone!

But do we Texans want to choke our schools, counties and cities? It doesn’t seem wise. The Amarillos, Dallases and Brownsvilles need some flexibility in the amount they raise for services like roads, schools and mental health care.

The governor argues local voters could vote to lift the 3 percent cap in the growth on homestead appraisals. They also could lift the limit on the amount local governments could raise.

But let’s be honest: The governor knows exactly what he’s doing. County officials are loath to push for tax hikes. What the governor really is saying is that he wants local governments and schools to have less money to do their work.

From the Waco Tribune:

Fresh from a Bahamas jaunt, Texas’ jet-setting governor this month is flying to Italy for an “economic development” trip.

Or maybe he’s just trying to get away from poll numbers. A Texas Poll last week found that Rick Perry had only 40 percent job approval. Maybe it’s because much of last year he devoted himself to party business (unnecessarily redrawing congressional districts for the second time in two years) rather than the people’s business.

But a more important number was shared by the Texas State Teachers Association last week. A poll by a bipartisan team found that 69 percent of Texans believe state funding for schools should be increased. Perry is resistant to that except for funding based on a set of incentives. Since the state’s share versus the local share has dropped to 38 percent, Texans seem to know full well that the state is not doing enough across the board.

Maybe the pilot can get a message to the governor.

From the Fort Worth Stae-Telegram:

The governor has laid out a package of proposals on this issue in preparation for an anticipated special legislative session on school finance.

One of the goals of legislative leaders is to gain approval of school property tax cuts during that special session, and Perry says that he doesn’t want those cuts to be steadily eaten away by appraisal “creep” or increased taxes from other local bodies.

Central to Perry’s plan is a cap on residential property appraisals limiting increases to 3 percent a year. Current law stops gains in taxable values at 10 percent a year.

Both caps are wrong. They distort fair taxation by departing from housing market realities.

That was actually a reasonably favorable piece for him, though like everyone else so far, they think the property tax increase cap is a bad idea.

And a three-fer from the Chron, starting with this unsigned editorial:

The governor says he will call a special session to end the resented Robin Hood system. He insists that the reform be revenue neutral. But it will take billions of additional state tax dollars to take the place of Robin Hood’s property tax recapture.

Perry won’t say where these new taxes will come from. He doesn’t know, yet he wants to take discretion out of the hands of local officials and put it in the hands of the Legislature.

Perry argues that any local government can raise taxes as much as it wants if it holds a vote of the people. In Houston, a vote costs $1 million, money that would be wasted on budgetary matters now handled by elected representatives.

Perry points out that half of the states have revenue caps similar to the ones he proposes. But how many of those states have an income tax that keeps property taxes low? How many finance public schools with state revenue, lightening the burden on homeowners?

If the governor had analyzed his proposals more thoroughly, he might not have made them.

And from Clay Robison:

Perhaps the worst problem, though, is that Perry is arbitrarily trying to restrict local budgets — and unfairly blaming high taxes on local officials — when many of the programs and services that local governments have to pay for are required by state law and policies set by the Legislature and the governor.

The state has imposed countless requirements on school districts but pays for less than 40 percent of public school costs. Every time the Legislature cuts spending on preventive health care for the poor, as it did last year, county hospital costs will rise. State restrictions on services for the mentally ill and mentally retarded put more people on the streets and into local jails. And the list goes on.

Perry said he wants to assure cities and counties that they won’t receive additional unfunded mandates from Austin. But even if he could, how would local governments keep paying for millions of dollars in obligations already on the books?

Which is basically the point I made a few days ago.

And finally, from hotshot columnist Rick Casey:

Gov. Perry says he’ll wait for other people to come up with a consensus on how to fund our schools. He can’t be bothered with providing leadership on finding a fair way to raise money.

He can only grandstand in saving taxpayers from local politicians.

If we’re lucky, in two years Perry will have a new career, on radio.

Maybe he and Ron Wilson can be cohosts. They’d be like the Walton and Johnson of conservative talk radio.

Lazy Sunday

Ever have a Sunday where you didn’t feel like doing a damn thing? I’m in the middle of one of those right now, that and a John Sandford novel. Hope your Sunday is going as well as mine.