Help Keep Texas Public Schools – Legislative Update

Taken from the AFT Legislative Update. The latest doesn’t look good and saving Texas public schools doesn’t look favorable. Even though the state has a fund set aside for a ‘rainy day’, the weather forecast looks beyond rainy – more like an impending hurricane with the strongest of winds that hit the Texas Gulf shorelines.

Senate Budget Chair Says Education Funding “Decimated”: Sen. Steve Ogden, chair of the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee, spoke for many yesterday when he said that the budget bill as introduced in the Texas Senate would pretty much “decimate” public education funding. Ogden, a Republican from College Station is on record in support of using the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s self-replenishing reserve fund, which will have $9.4 billion available to help close a revenue shortfall of $27 billion for the 2012-2013 biennium.  Ogden also has said the state must revisit the newfangled business tax passed in 2006, because it has not produced nearly as much revenue as originally projected. If lawmakers fail to marshal needed revenue, he says, school districts will face the next two years more than $9 billion short of the amount they need to maintain current services.

Not coincidentally, the botched 2006 tax package is falling about $9 billion short per biennium of the amount needed to replace the local property taxes that lawmakers cut that year. This structural deficit, combined with the cyclical revenue loss caused by the worst recession since the end of World War II, has jolted many lawmakers into the realization that cuts alone will not work as a budget strategy.

More Lawmakers for Common Sense:
Sen. Robert Deuell, Republican of Greenville, came out strongly today for using the Rainy Day Fund, closing tax loopholes, and raising some taxes to make up for the collapse of state revenue. In an interview with the Quorum Report today, Deuell said, “I’m advocating using the Rainy Day Fund—all of it. I also think we should raise the gas tax 10 cents and close loopholes in the sales tax.”

Meanwhile, over in the Texas House, the newly filed bill by Rep. Jim Pitts to use $4.273 billion of the Rainy Day Fund has drawn support from across the political spectrum. The Waxahachie Republican’s HB 275 has attracted as co-authors Republican Reps. John Otto of Dayton, Debbie Riddle of Tomball, Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, and Drew Darby of San Angelo, plus Democrat Helen Giddings of Dallas.

The outbreak of such commonsensical ideas at the capitol has shocked some anti-tax zealots into action in opposition. One such group, calling itself Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, has ginned up an education-focused campaign of robo-calls to residents of key legislative districts, claiming that the danger of budget-driven mass layoffs of teachers is a myth. But it’s no myth, as increasing numbers of legislators are coming to realize.

I find it so incredulous that there is continued discussion when a ‘bail out’ is available. If a bail out is a good remedy offered by the federal government to save the economy of the larger United States, then a bail out with the Rainy Day Fund is definitely warranted. What do you think?


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