Saturday, 06 August, 2005

Tax free weekends and school funding

This weekend is a Sales Tax Holiday in the state of Texas.  State sales tax will not be collected on certain items of clothing sold between August 5 and August 7.  It seems that the primary purpose is to allow parents to make "back to school" purchases.  School starts here on August 11.

If the Sales Tax Holiday is indeed meant to save parents money (about eight percent) on "back to school" purchases, you'd think that school supplies also would be on the list of items that aren't taxed.  I guess that would make too much sense for the Legislature to consider.  We wouldn't want people to buy a year's supply of pencils, paper, glue, and scissors without paying tax on them, would we?

Speaking of legislative incompetence, we're now in the middle of yet another legislative special session.  For at least the past two years the Texas Legislature has been trying to reform the way that schools are financed.  The current "Robin Hood" plan that attempts to put the same amount of money, per student, into each school district is highly unpopular and not terribly effective.  When the regular legislative session closed without a new school funding plan, the Governor called a special session that was supposed to be dedicated solely to addressing that problem.  That 30-day session closed without a new school funding plan, but the legislature did manage to improve their health plan, cut other state workers' benefits, and generally do everything possible to make the voting public wonder why the hell we even have a Legislature.

The problem we have is that school finance currently is tied to property taxes, and property owners are becoming increasingly annoyed by the ever-increasing taxes.  Texas has no state income tax, and instituting one would be very unpopular.  The Legislature is left with the impossible job of lowering property taxes and increasing school funding without raising sales taxes or instituting a state income tax.  How anybody expects to increase expenditures and decrease income is beyond me.  But watching the Legislature is somewhat amusing.  Plus, if we keep them focused on school funding they'll have less time to come up with innovative ways to squander our money on other things.