Business group seeks tax cuts instead of school money

 

The Texas Association of Business (TAB) loves to hold news conferences and issue press releases about improving quality in the public schools, but now it’s time for the organization to put its money where its rhetoric has long been.

The legislative leadership has announced budget proposals that fail to restore the $5.4 billion slashed from public education two years ago. And, Gov. Rick Perry – the budget-cutter-in-chief and a longtime beneficiary of TAB’s political support – is even promoting the idea of using a vastly improved revenue picture to reduce taxes instead of repairing the damage to public schools.

Is the TAB leadership lining up with educators and other people who actually do support the public schools and demanding that the funding that was cut last session – more than $500 per student – be restored? That would be the right thing for TAB to do, of course, since our state’s employers – like our children – have much to lose if the governor and the legislative majority were to be allowed to continue to hack away at public education.

Alas, TAB has been silent on the budget cuts. But TAB President and CEO Bill Hammond has quickly endorsed the governor’s tax-cut idea and has jumped to the head of the line with his hand held out. According to the Quorum Report, Hammond is proposing his own plan for about $4 billion in tax cuts for business, including reductions in the franchise tax.

Keep in mind this is the same franchise tax that already has been notoriously underperforming and has never come close to replacing the revenue lost to the local school property tax cuts that the governor engineered in 2006. Hammond’s proposal would dig an even deeper budgetary hole for the public schools.

If Hammond really wants to help the cause of public education – and the future of Texas’ business community – he should demand that the Legislature bust its artificially low spending cap and, if necessary, dig into the $11.8 billion Rainy Day Fund to restore the cuts to the schools, health care and other important state services that were inflicted in 2011.

Hammond needs to understand that strong public schools require a lot more than demanding, as he frequently does, that students be bombarded with high-stakes standardized tests.

 

 

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