Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A State Property Tax in Texas?

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

State Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) has suggested (again) that Texas solve its arcane system of taxation by instituting a system that seems to work in other foreign states: instead of having local school districts and counties see to the collection of property taxes for the purpose of local public education, why not have that function transferred to the state? Let the state collect property taxes. Education funding would then come 100% from state sources.

Gone would be the court-mandated reforms that maligned the once revered name of Robin Hood.

Gone would be the complex, some would say, Byzantine system of education finance that has resulted in the crisis in education delivery that we now face.

I guess it takes a crisis of these kinds of severe proportions to get Republicans to sit up and listen to the reformers.

Amazingly, here is an exchange between Duncan, uber-conservative Dan Patrick, and State Senate education guru Florence Shapiro:

Patrick (commenting on Texas’ system of educational fund collection): 

“This is what’s wrong with government…it’s inexplicable. It’s like the IRS code.”

“No, it’s worse.”
“There must be a simpler way.”
Duncan (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I would say):
“I’ve got it, Statewide property tax”
Tongue-in-cheek because Duncan floated that idea a year ago but if fell on deaf ears.

Well the ears have become unclogged because now we’ve got these two agreeing with him, it seems.

So Duncan seems to be again making the proposal that the constitution be amended to allow the state to be the property taxing vehicle, removing it from local authority. One result of this, you would think, is a uniform taxation rate across the state rather than some counties maintaining low rates, while others do not.

Here’s the rub: the constitutional amendment must be approved by Texas voters in off-off year elections, ones that draw only the truly concerned to the polls. All you would need is one ad campaign frightening Texas voters into thinking that they will be paying more in taxes because state government is less efficient than county government.

Or they could just blatantly lie and say that this is a new tax on top of local property taxes. Delivery of lies to effect a political agenda has been done before.

And again, not that this will matter a whit to the coming 2011-2012 school year. Even if the tax structure is totally revamped in this legislative session, the die is already cast unless someone can check the under the sofa cushions and find a few billion dollars they forgot about.

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