B.B.A. (Finance and Economics) - Baylor University
Juris Doctorate - UT Law
We need to dramatically increase the funding of our public education system. As the parent of 2 (soon to be 3) children in DISD public schools, I know all too well that our current system is broken and in dire need of reform and additional resources. The allocation formulas need reevaluation, new models need to be considered and the system is sorely in need of a cash infusion. I have voted to increase funding to public schools in every session that I have been a member. But I have also supported reform models that would result in assisting communities of color and disadvantaged communities, such as public charters and magnet schools. I will continue to champion an "all of the above" approach to fixing our public school system.
The economic stabilization fund (or Rainy Day Fund) as it is commonly described, should be utilized for non-recurring emergency expenditures such as hurricane relief, wildfire support, tornadic activity, etc. It should also be utilized when the economy takes an unexpected downturn so that state resources can be supplemented in the face of reduced revenues. The ESF has become a political football because certain elements of the Texas Legislature have determined that any reduction in the ESF is tantamount to "growing government." This is certainly not the case, but we must be careful to be prudent with the state's savings account and not utilize the account merely out of convenience or for recurring expenditures.
As the son of parents who are on a fixed income and whose property taxes have increased by over 100% in the last 10 years, it is clear to me that something must be done. I would suggest that in addition to the 10% growth cap per year, we should also institute a 50% growth cap per decade. As well, I would add a cap on anyone over the age of 65 or anyone on a fixed income - not only for the public education taxing authority but for all taxing authorities. No question the locals would resist this change but I value the needs of the citizens of my community over the needs of the city council to institute excessive growth.
Just as with education funding, I am a firm believe in an "all of the above" approach to highway funds. While I am no proponent of "tolled lanes," I believe we must utilize managed lanes to obtain the necessary funds to begin increasing infrastructure. In fact, I authored legislation this past legislative session to do exactly that. My bill failed in the face of ideological opposition to anything that included tolls. I am also in favor of public private partnerships and alternative financing structures. These approaches have been used to great success on the HWT 635 W Project. They should also work on other North Texas projects.
I believe we will need to be diligent in our efforts to reform: (I) the foster care system in Texas, (ii) the methodologies Texas uses for redistricting, (iii) our Voter ID system, (iv) healthcare insurance, and (v) hurricane Harvey relief procedures. Likewise, I think it is imperative that we continue to fight against any measure that is unnecessary, would result in harm to the Texas economy and is discriminatory on its face - such as the infamous "bathroom bill."
University of New Hampshire, Arizona State University
I am a product of public schools and am a strong supporter of education. To best provide for our students and teachers, we must insist on more education for our money, not more money for our education. I will embrace reforms that allow teachers to use their gift of teaching and not burden them with continuous benchmark assessments used to populate data bases and ultimately bring no real value. We must find a long-term education funding solution without bankrupting taxpayers. Allowing educational funding to follow the student will empower parents to make the best decision for the needs of their child. Parents of special needs children, for example, must have full flexibility to address the unique challenges they face.
Great care needs to be taken when the Legislature dips into the Economic Stabilization Fund. Eighty-five percent of these funds come from oil and gas profits, an industry with a history of "ups and downs". The Legislature recently used some of these funds to help finance the construction of highways, because for years gas tax money in Fund 6 has been diverted away from transportation expenditures. The Rainy-Day Fund is not a slush fund, and should only be used for a true "Rainy Day", such as a budget shortfall due to economic crisis, extreme natural disasters or response to terrorist attack. Hurricane Harvey reminded us that the fund can face significant demands in the blink of an eye.
Many local governments are drowning in debt that will soon grow unsustainably for Texas property owners. We cannot continue with a "buy now, pay later" attitude saddling future taxpayers with the payment burden of potentially $10 being owed for every $1 borrowed. The State should enforce current limits on debt by local entities, who derive their existence and power from the State Constitution. Limit or ban the use of "creative financing" that get around State limits. Also, educate citizens on this huge debt burden and encourage those in "Home-Rule “cities to use the petition process to change their City Charter to include limits on spending and debt. Tax payers are overburdened and must live within budgets, government should as well.
We must prioritize our infrastructure needs to address our growing population, keep gas tax monies from being diverted to the General Fund and use the money recently allocated by the Legislature from the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) to build high quality roads and bridges in Texas. Just like my family has a certain amount of money to spend each month, we must take care of our needs and then prioritize our "wants". Unlike the federal government, Texas cannot just print more money to do everything the Legislators want to do.
I do not favor tolled lanes to reduce congestion. Transportation funding needs be prioritized in the general revenue as infrastructure is a core function of government.
Candidate has not yet responded.
A.B. Harvard University
J.D. Yale Law School
Texas must increase its investment in public education. Today, Texas is near the bottom among the fifty states in its level of per-student funding. School districts need funding to recruit and retain quality teachers, to keep class sizes manageable, to have good career and technical education, to offer quality pre-K programs, and to provide tutors and summer school for kids who need extra help. My work as an attorney for one of the major school district coalitions in the Texas school finance litigation – which sought better funding for all Texas schools – impressed upon me the importance of adequate resources for public education. This would be a top priority for me as a legislator.
The Rainy Day fund currently holds about $10 billion. There is no reason our state should be sitting on such a large volume of unused tax dollars. Up to 2006, the fund never ended a fiscal year with a balance of more than $1 billion. I would favor directing several billion dollars toward public schools, and using additional amounts for other purposes, including infrastructure and high-priority hurricane recovery costs that cannot be funded through federal aid. The primary reason for this fund should be to address temporary revenue shortfalls in the event of a recession. We should maintain a balance sufficient to do that. But we should not be boasting about how much tax money we are collecting but not using for any public purpose.
Texans value local control. But the Legislature has been threatening that time-honored principle with proposals that would override cities in areas from budgeting to bathrooms. I believe Texas works best when local officials make local decisions. While there is no one-size-fits-all rule for state versus local regulation, strong justification should be required for further legislative interference in traditional local functions. That is one reason I would not change the existing laws relating to local property tax authority. The most important thing we can do to reduce the burden on local property taxpayers is to better fund public education at the state level – not to pass ill-advised laws that would further restrict local decision-making.
Texas must continue to invest in its highways, with a priority on congested areas. Good roads lead to stronger economic growth and better quality of life. As for tolled lanes: paying tolls understandably frustrates many Dallas residents. We should not make tolled lanes the centerpiece of our future highway system. There are cases in which tolled roads or lanes make sense, but: (1) we should avoid having too many of them; (2) the state should evaluate toll proposals carefully to ensure that they would truly reduce congestion on non-tolled lanes and roads, and (3) tolls should end when no longer needed to pay for construction costs.
First, the next legislative session will be a crossroads for Texas public education. We must truly support our public schools and help them succeed, and not start down a road of privatizing our system. Next, health care will be a critical issue. The Legislature’s unjustified refusal to accept Medicaid expansion funds has placed increased burdens on local taxpayers to fund uncompensated care. Finally, I believe this is a year when elected leaders at all levels must reject polarization, rediscover decency, and refocus on unifying American values such as the rule of law, the Constitution, and the principles of liberty and justice for all.