June 4, 2008
Last month our campaign was a little busy. I was invited for coffee and cake at a supporter's home in Atascocita; invited to address a meeting of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees in Humble, attended a budget workshop of the Humble ISD School Board and attended Memorial Day Services in Crosby/Highlands.
At all of these events, the residents of District 127 seemed to have the same concern regarding public education funding. Perhaps it was due to the school board elections and the number of bond issues that were on the ballot, but I was repeatedly asked my position regarding the critical stage of school funding in Texas.
I reminded everyone of my positions:
- Congress should amend and fund No Child Left Behind (NCLB) so we can better prioritize federal dollars to address the needs of our children and teachers and not the wants of politicians.
- The leadership in Texas must demand reimbursement from the Federal government for state funds used to comply with the NCLB unfunded mandate.
- The state must close corporate tax loopholes that rob revenues that we allocate for education, and that only benefit corporations that outsource Texas jobs to other states and/or other countries.
- The state must demand an investigation of the present property tax system to assess the fairness of the system at all taxing levels, including residential, commercial and industrial properties. The burden should not only be on homeowners.
- Our state leaders must stop the practice of diverting education funds to other programs without the approval of the state legislature.
- We must demand an audit of Gov. Perry's $300,000,000.00 corporate slush fund controlled by a select group in his office that continues to siphon funds from all taxable revenues. Have these tax dollars directly benefited local schools?
- And we must give consideration to other revenue opportunities, such as an expansion of gambling as long as proceeds are diverted to the state's education investment, while creating local jobs, increasing sales tax revenue, and creating more small businesses. All possible sources must be on the table.
I was also asked if I would support a state income tax. (The Republican Leadership has been using this threat of a state income tax as an election platform against Democrats running for office)
As I have previously stated, I am opposed to a state income tax at this time because I believe that by implementing the above stated practices, we can better prioritze our resources, generate additional tax revenues and stimulate our economy.
I was then asked, “Mr. Montemayor, the State Controller just announced that they expect a state budget surplus of over 10 billion dollars this year. Why can’t the state just fund our schools with that surplus?” And here's my response:
The truth is that, as I understand it, during the last legislative session the Republican leadership put forth legislation to earmark tax dollars from any future budget surplus. In other words the 10 billion dollar surplus has already been allocated to line-items identified by the Republican leadership, none of which was for education. According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities (2008), any 2010-2011 surplus is earmarked for the Property Tax Relief Fund, which is already committed to pay for previous tax cuts (remember your small school property tax cut last year?), and to the Rainy Day Fund, which is reserved for emergencies. In all likelihood, the state will again be unable to fund critical public systems without new sources of revenue.
Further, Governor Perry, Lt Governor Dewhurst and House Speaker Craddick have publicly stated that they do not intend to address this issue in the next legislative section. In their opinion school funding has already been addressed and there is no reason to visit the issue again during the 2009 session. Their position is shared by one of their main supporters, my opponent, Joe Crabb.
Due to the current 26 million dollar deficit facing the Humble ISD, the number of bond proposals that were presented this last election, the number of school boards having to cut programs and electives for our children, the termination of support staff and teachers through the states and the rising dropout rate of our students, I cannot agree with the Republican Leadership's position.
We must, as leaders in our state, stop playing politics, stop using partisan scare tactics, stop diveriting our tax dollars to political slush funds, and begin finding solutions to these critical issues. Otherwise the ones who will pay a heavy price will be our children and our grandchildren.
I once again invite Mr. Crabb to join me in a meaningful discussion to try to find solutions to the challenges that are faced by residents of House District 127. I confess that I do not have the answers to all the challenges that face our community, but I do believe that if we stop playing politics and work together we can find common ground and begin working toward solutions that work.
Candidate, Texas House-District 127