Texas House, District 114
2 year term. Must be 21 or older, a US citizen, resident of Texas and the district represented. Responsible for representing the citizens of the district in the Texas House of Representatives.
CHOOSE TWO CANDIDATES FROM BELOW TO COMPARE
John Turner (Dem)
EDUCATION: What changes, if any, should be made to public education and its funding in Texas?
RAINY DAY FUND: What uses are appropriate, in your opinion, for the Rainy Day fund?
LOCAL CONTROL: Are you in favor or opposed to additional restrictions on cities’ ability to raise property taxes? If in favor, how would you implement? Last session saw restrictions placed on cities’ ability to regulate fracking, gun sales, etc. Are you in favor of these restrictions and would you favor additional restrictions?
HIGHWAY FUNDS: How would you address the growing need for funding for highway maintenance and construction? What is your position on allowing tolled lanes to reduce congestion on crowded highways?
OTHER ISSUES: What other issues do you believe will be most pressing in the next session of the Texas Legislature and what is your position on these issues?
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.
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