Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Governor Doesn't Know Best

I recently saw a link to a page on Texas Governor Greg Abbott's personal campaign website, along with the endorsement, "I'm starting to like this guy..." I clicked on the link hoping to find proposals for how local governments are supposed to fund local needs -- you know, things like education for special needs, relief of overcrowded classrooms, giving teachers raises, repaving our streets and alleys, keeping swimming pools open, etc. But it turns out that those aren't the problems Governor Abbott cares about. And he certainly isn't interested in working with local government in coming up with solutions.


Instead I found a proposal by the governor to impose caps on the taxes that fund local government, regardless of local need, regardless of the health of local economies. The governor knows that citizens want better schools and want stronger cities. But the governor himself wants smaller government. His proposal is designed to get what he wants, regardless of local wants or needs.

Greg Abbott is just another in a long line of politicians in Austin wanting to take away local control over local issues. Instead of placing handcuffs on local government, he ought to be empowering it. I'll be voting against him in 2018 and for someone who supports public schools. So, no, I'm not starting to like this guy.

5 comments:

glbeach said...

Well said. While the Governor could not see clearly enough to progress Texas during the regular and special sessions - trying to insure people knew where to pee was his highest and most important priority - to try and handcuff local government due to state level dysfunction is pretty much a new low. Perhaps the Governor fears competition come the next election cycle and is starting his, "Let's blame others for the state's problems" early. . . And no, I'm not now nor have I ever 'started to like this guy' . . .

bryan holland said...

Hi Mark, always enjoy your blog and your intellect. I've learned a lot from you over the years. I do believe the "Let's blame others for the state's problems" is, in fact, in reverse. As a school district, we constantly whine about the state being the problem. The state, in fact, provides checks and balances to a system that is intensely segregated. the smaller the local entity, the more segregated it is. It's time we grew up and managed our local business within the given rules. We need to take accountability for our school's performances and not just throw up our hands and say "gee, give us more money." I've said it before, and the money beggers don't want to address it, but again, If we are building 60 million dollar football stadiums, 80 million dollar practice facilities, at recently at RISD 8 million dollars for new lockerrooms and coaches offices, we are FLUSH with cash. If not, we got bigger leadership problems locally than the state. There is a lot I disagree with, the Governor, including the crusade about where kids should "pee", but his position is well laid out on finances. If we stay tribalistic in our approach to our local politics, this system is going to collapse. It's unsustainable in it's present form. You simply cannot keep spending local finances in a stupid way, not focusing on closing the performance gap, and increasing home values and not pay a price. In short, perhaps leadership is lacking at the national and state level for academics. But it appears to me with the disconnect as to how we spend our money and what we say, the local leadership is worse.

Mark Steger said...

Gary and Bryan, thanks for the feedback. Bryan, school districts are not free to spend the money they are using to build football stadiums on, say, teacher salaries. State law forbids it. Capping tax revenues at the local level isn't designed to fix that. Texas needs school finance reform, not tax caps.

bryan holland said...

You are welcome Mark. Not 100 percent true however as we have discussed. Whereas capital money cannot be spent on operational budgets, the reverse is not true. Money can be taken AWAY from teachers salaries and put towards capital expenditures. And it happens often
Plus last time I looked on my tax statement there is only one line for property taxes, not one for capital and one for operational. It's a hand wave and still does not address spending. But we are both in agreement Finance REFORM is critical. Property tax reform is critical as well. But until that happens, let's use some common sense on how we spend.

Mark Steger said...

Bryan, as you say, school districts are not required to borrow money for capital projects. They are allowed to, but don't have to. Requiring them to would be unwise and no one is proposing to do that. Money available for operations can be spent on operations (like teacher salaries) or interest on debt or new capital projects. The amount of money available for operations can fluctuate from year to year depending on property tax revenues. An increase one year (because of rising property appraisals) can disappear the next (because the state recalculates it school finance formula to recapture that increase). RISD conservatively budgets so such fluctuations cause minimal disruptions to ongoing operations. The general strategy is to use budget surpluses for one-time expenses (like the construction of the Arzell Ball Center) instead of making commitments to ongoing operational expenses (like hiring more teachers). That way, when the revenues are recaptured by the state, the only impact on RISD is that some desired construction project gets delayed, rather than teachers having to be laid off. I happen to think that this is a common sense way to approach the budget.