Texas Legislators Pass School Finance Bill—But Lack Means to Fund It

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

In June, 2019, Texas legislators passed House Bill 3, an $11.6 billion dollar school finance and property tax reform package, but lawmakers failed to include a way to pay for the bill beyond the next two years, Justin Miller reported for the Texas Observer.

State Representative Harold Dutton, a Democratic, persuaded Representative Dustin Burrows, a Republican, to implement an amendment to the property tax bill that would require a commission to review every tax exemption and recommend reforms. This would ensure a way for Texan tax-payers to be protected from having their taxes increased due to House Bill 3.

As Miller reported, unequal local tax breaks and exemptions cost Texas about $60 billion a year, which for, diverting valuable funding from public education. Burrows’s idea for the new amendment would investigate Texas’s largest corporate welfare program, Chapter 313, which costs the state one billion dollars per year.

Critics argue that Chapter 313 lavishes tax breaks on large corporations that do not need state-aid in order to expand.  State funds would be better directed toward improving the school system, critics of Chapter 313 contend.  The corporate welfare program is set to expire in 2022, unless the Legislature votes to extend it.

According to Miller, “Burrows quietly nixed Dutton’s amendment to formally review tax exemptions.” As a result, there’s not yet a legislative solution for how to fund the programs approved in House Bill 3.

Coverage of House Bill 3 has been limited to Texas-based news outlets; the story, as reported by Justin Miller, has not received national news attention.

Source: Justin Miller, “The Cost of Carve-Outs,” Texas Observer, June 18, 2019, https://www.texasobserver.org/the-cost-of-carve-outs/.

Student Researchers: Keyla Bharucha, Carol McCormick, Julia Tasiopoulos, Hannah Walsh (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)