TEXAS SENATE PASSES SCR 20 TO "BUST THE CAP"
February 14, 2007
"Why 'bust the cap' when we don't know what will be spent? What's more important –tax cuts for the wealthy or CHIP for Texas children?"
Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh, www.shapleigh.org
AUSTIN – Today, the Texas Senate passed SCR 20, a senate resolution to "bust the cap" on state spending and provide property tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Texans. The resolution passed with 17 votes.
In 2003, property tax cuts were tied to a package for public school financing. A 1978 constitutional spending cap, based on the projected growth of the Texas economy, restricts the legislature's ability to adequately fund both programs, in addition to funding commitments to children's health, public safety and other basic services and programs.
Today's unprecedented vote makes property tax cuts a priority before Senate work on a state budget has begun. "Why 'bust the cap' when we don't know what will be spent?" asked Senator Shapleigh. "What's more important – tax cuts for the wealthy or CHIP for Texas children?"
The following is an editorial by Senator Shapleigh:
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"
Stealing from Children to Reward the Rich
Senator Eliot Shapleigh
Imagine a family gathered in their living room for a talk on the family budget. The father asks his children to sit next to him on the couch. He puts his arms around them and smiles warmly.
"Kids, we have some tough choices to make," the father says. "We can't pay for everything. So, we're canceling your health insurance and raiding the college fund. Mom needs a Lexus and I'm getting a condo."
Almost everyone would be appalled by the obviously irresponsible and selfish parents who would deny their children health and education to gratify their own desires. Almost everyone.
The story is not so far-fetched. For it is exactly what the Republican leadership in Austin is recommending with their mean-spirited focus on future tax cuts for the extremely wealthy at the cost of Texas children's health, public schools, and college education.
Our state budget is a moral document. It reflects our moral choices. Do we really want to tell our children that luxuries for those of extreme wealth outweigh our responsibility to the young? How will we teach them responsibility when state leaders so clearly demonstrate irresponsible and callous disregard for our community and future generations?
The enormous state budget surplus—$14.3 billion—was produced by cuts in 2003 that denied health care to hundreds of thousands of Texas kids. It was boosted by providing only meager new resources to public schools. The truth is that the school finance bills of 2005 were more about tax cuts for the wealthy than pay raises for teachers.
It's easy to get a surplus if you're not going to cover kids with CHIP; it's easy if you don't get teachers into schools; and it's easy if you don't fund TEXAS Grants, so more kids can go into college—because you are doing something no other state does: you're forgetting about your own citizens.
In 2005, HB 2 delivered Texas' tax-cut plan. In this session, those tax cuts are being put into the state budget. But, the Republican leadership wants more—and they're gambling on our future in the process.
For instance, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's 2008-09 budget recommendations ask the Senate to deliver tax cuts not only for 2008-2009, but to guarantee, before all other priorities, $3 billion in tax cuts for 2010-2011. In other words, he wants to bank tax cuts for the wealthiest Texans, just in time for the primaries in 2010, instead of covering children with CHIP.
What is more important, guaranteeing tax cuts for the wealthy four years from now, or providing health care for Texas children today?
The answer is that nine in ten of the dollars in Dewhurst’s proposed "rich man’s rainy day fund" will go to those who make more than $85,000 per year. At the other end, those earning between $14,000 and $33,000 may actually see their taxes increase.
You read that correctly. Our state leads America in children with no health insurance, yet state leaders want to strip $3 billion in revenue from a surplus already built upon the backs of our children and bank the money so we can reward the very wealthy with guaranteed tax cuts in 2010-2011.
A child born this year will be six years old by the time this plan runs out. Will we wait until then to ask what was cost and what was gained? Today's 12-year-old might be out of high school by then, provided we haven't already failed her and let her drop out.
Fortunately, there are other choices—better choices.
We can lower the property tax burden on middle class Texans and provide for our children today. We can pay for CHIP and TEXAS Grants too, so more students can realize the dream of a college education. We can—if we want to.
So now it’s up to us. Let your lawmaker know where your heart is. Let her know what’s more important to you. With a $14.3 billion surplus, now is the time to invest in our children and our future.
Just once make children the priority, not millionaires.
While preaching on a mountainside, Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21).
So, where is the heart of Texas' leadership in Austin today?
The answer is simple. Just look in the budget.
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E. Anthony Martinez
Office of Senator Eliot Shapleigh
Texas State Capitol – E1.610
Austin, Texas 78711