J.J. Pearce High School
University of California, Irvine
Washington & Lee University School of Law
I am supportive of instituting pre-k, reducing the emphasis on standardized testing (both in terms of student benchmarks and teacher performance), and most importantly, creating a stable and consistent funding mechanism for our public schools. Our current funding formula is unfairly burdensome on residential property owners. The lack of transparency in commercial property tax results in billions in lost revenue annually, if we were to just enforce existing taxation laws. This unequal tax burden hits hardest in poorer counties, exacerbating the need to recapture and distribute property taxes to various school districts. Additionally, we need to maintain the franchise tax, which contributes billions to public schools, rather than repeal it.
Rainy days. Harvey is an ideal scenario where using this fund is appropriate. I am open to utilizing the fund if necessary to get children off of the floor of Child Protective Services offices or to keep public schools open, but we should not consider this fund for every underfunded budget issue. Rather, we should force the conversation about why our funding priorities allow such underfunded public services while we have such a robust and growing economy.
I am a firm believer in local control and that local municipalities should be entitled to manage their own community's property taxes. I am not in favor of the additional local control restrictions enacted last sessions, including the efforts under SB4 to leverage the police powers of local law enforcement to federal law enforcement ends.
It is objectively true that our highways and infrastructure generally are in dire need of improvement. A 2017 analysis determined that Texas is “at-risk” for its dams, drinking water, flood control, highways, roads, and wastewater. This was evident during Harvey in Houston. I believe that our two recent constitutional amendments to raise highway funds are a good start, but still leaves the state short of necessary funds. I would like to see a greater emphasis in public transportation, especially between our major cities such as the proposed bullet train between Dallas and Houston. I am further open to additional public-private projects that have been successful in North Texas, and that municipalities should be able to make that choice.
Public education and vouchers are going to be the biggest topics next session, followed by the amount of relief to allocate for Harvey victims from the Rainy Day fund. I am completely against vouchers and the recent efforts to privatize public education; I believe that public funds should only go to public institutions, not charter schools. I also anticipate that local control issues will be a central focus (such as capping property tax growth - which I am against) and efforts to roll back business regulations (for instance, last session the franchise tax was almost eliminated, proposed roll back on environmental notices, etc.) and criminal justice reform (i.e.bond issues, pre-trial incarceration, and how to police marijuana effectively).
B.A. - University of Texas - Austin
J.D. University of Houston Law School
Texas does not spend enough on education. The basic allotment per student, expanding pre-K campuses and offering more wraparound services at schools around the state is an obvious start to improving public education. Regarding funding, our state is enjoying a healthy sales tax surplus and its revenues along with the Rainy Day fund should be considered for funding in the short term. In the long term, we have to get more Democrats in state government so that we can finally address the dysfunctional nature of our school funding formula. At present, with one party leadership, we are at a political stalemate that shortchanges our children and Texas property owners that shortchanges our children and Texas property owners.
The Rainy Day Fund should be available for natural disasters first and foremost. Man-made crises like our state education funding gap also call for deduction from the fund at this time.
No, I am not in favor of this overreach from Austin regarding property taxation. Cities need the flexibility to adjust their taxes based on the needs of the constituents they are elected to serve. There are clear safety and public health situations that may call for Austin's restriction on local control; like when State Senator Don Huffines proposed eliminating vehicle inspections in the last legislative session. However, county and city officials know what is best and deal with the daily decisions and quality of life in their jurisdictions.
I believe the Texas legislature should support high speed rail proposed between Houston and Dallas which would ease damage to roads in the long term and the public burden for infrastructure costs during its construction. Tolls are not ideal. However, it all depends on the deal behind the new toll systems in question, will it benefit taxpayers in the long run and help us curtail traffic in the meantime? Once these toll projects are paid off, charges should ease or cease entirely so funds can go to road maintenance only. We can not negotiate additional bad deals for Texans or write off additional toll lanes entirely. With my decades of experience in negotiation and mediating, I feel I could get the best deal for my constituents.
My top priorities aside from education and infrastructure are expanding healthcare access, reforming the criminal justice system, and economic development. Expanding our community clinic networks and criminal justice reform is the right thing to do and will have the added benefit of saving our counties and state millions of dollars every year. Sentencing and bail reform will go a long way towards helping Texas' working poor. I am also focused on keeping Texas a competitive environment for business so we can continue to be a leader in energy and technology jobs. This commitment means fighting any attempt to reintroduce the bathroom bill or religious freedom exemptions to hiring.
J.D., Boston Univ. School of Law, Cum Laude
B.B.A., Economics, James Madison Univ., Cum Laude
Robin Hood is the number one problem in Texas public education and must be abolished. In addition, school funding is systemically flawed and must be reformed from the bottom up, with an emphasis on driving dollars to the classroom and increasing teacher pay. I would eliminate costly mandates, thereby freeing up more resources for our teachers and students, and return local control to promote greater efficiency in our public schools. Furthermore, competition between schools should be encouraged through a system of school choice, whereby the individual student’s share of state funding moves with the student, who is freely allowed to home school or attend the institution of his or her parents’ choice.
Texas voters approved the ESF, or "Rainy Day Fund", "to offset unforeseen shortfalls in revenue" caused by the fluctuations of the oil market and unpredictable Texas weather. However, since its inception, legislators have used less than one-third of the more than $11 billion spent from the ESF to fund budget shortfalls or natural disaster relief. In 2017, if not for many of us fighting to preserve the ESF, much-needed money for Hurricane Harvey relief would be available from the fund. We should restrict attempts to use the ESF to fund legislators' pet projects and limit expenditures to their intended purpose--to offset unforeseen shortfalls in revenue during economic downturns and for natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey.
The #1 issue I hear from voters is that they are fed up with local government raising property taxes and increasing spending, while honest, hardworking homeowners struggle to pay their tax bills. I'm proud to have worked with Gov. Abbott to craft his plan to rein in property tax growth and improve transparency at the local level and will continue to work to implement this proposal next session. This plan would (1) establish a cap to limit local property tax revenue growth to 2.5% per year; (2) allow the cap to be exceeded only for specific priorities like increasing teacher pay and hiring additional police officers, and only then upon approval by taxpayers; and (3) improve local debt transparency and require a 2/3 vote to issue new debt.
I believe that additional appropriations for transportation are needed from existing funds without raising overall tax rates and the passage of Proposition 7 in 2015 was a good first step in prioritizing transportation spending in the overall budget. I oppose any new tolls to fund transportation spending and I would meet our transportation needs by dedicating existing vehicle sales tax revenue to fund new transportation projects.
Stopping skyrocketing property tax growth and school funding reform are the top two priorities next legislative session. I would also like to see us address ethics reform, such as banning taxpayer-funded lobbying and preventing former legislators from becoming lobbyists. In addition, corporate welfare should be completely eliminated in the State of Texas. I would eliminate wasteful corporate handouts from funds like the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Film Commission use of those funds to shore up existing obligations of the Teachers Retirement System and reduce TRS-care premium payments.