Texas legislators had a successful session, but not a historic one
Monday, May 27, 2019 at 09:47PM
Randy Cain

                  By Ross Ramsey

                  May 25, 2019

The buzzword state leaders attached to their school finance and property tax package — “transformative” — is more aspiration than information.

They’re hoping you’ll think highly of the legislation and that you’ll think highly of them for their work on it. But this one is going to have a hard time living up to the hype.

That’s not a crack about what lawmakers are trying to do in the deal they announced with a news conference at the Governor’s Mansion. It’s about whether they did something that will actually change the schools, or ease Texans’ ill will about property taxes, or both.

Is the product better? Is the pricing better? What did we really get?

Look at the results without consideration for the potential points of drama, like the winners and losers on the particulars of the legislation, who got along and who didn’t play nice, what factors deadlines played, and whose political star is brighter or dimmer than it was a couple of days ago.

Look at it without the personalities attached. The $11.6 billion legislation does some big things, particularly if you use dollar signs in your definition of big things:

 

 

Are the property tax cuts big enough to provide real relief — and if so, will that relief last more than one or two years?

State leaders celebrated making a deal on a tough piece of legislation. That’s great, like a banker and a developer having a party when they figure out how to finance and build a building. It was hard, but they wrote their chapter of Art of the Deal. The measure of their work, however, will come from the people who live or work in that building. Most of the time, most of the people affected don’t even know the names of the folks who were at the celebration. Their interest is simple: In the scheme of things, was the building an improvement?

Right now, the spending and the legal changes in the school finance and property tax package are worth a bottle of champagne or two; it really is difficult to find a trail through the dense thicket of politics and policy around these subjects.

But will the changes and the $11.6 billion be “transformative,” and will they be sustainable in future state budgets? Are Texas lawmakers actually putting a new and improved school system in place? A fairer property tax? A lower property tax?

Maybe it will turn out that they really have transformed this essential and expensive area of state government, and quelled rising voter concern about high property taxes in Texas.

Or — and honestly, this is usually the result in matters of public education and taxes — they just fixed it for a little while.

 

                    "Analysis: Texas legislators had a successful session, but not a historic one" was first published at  by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

 

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