A lawmaker once observed that putting together a budget — local, state or federal — that deals mainly with public funds is akin to putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
The easy part is to hold up one piece of the puzzle and proclaim, “oh, what a pretty picture.”
Seeing the whole picture, after the puzzle is put together, is somewhat of a more complicated matter.
First, Texas legislators should be commended for finally stepping up and addressing what the state’s residents have been complaining about for years — rising property tax bills, more state reliance on local property taxes to fund schools or how to deal with the state’s child welfare system.
Will legislators succeed in this session? The odds are, they won’t.
But they are starting a much-needed conversation, which in our opinion, is a much-needed start.
Do Texas’ residents want lower property taxes? Of course, they do.
Do Texas’ residents want a better way of funding its schools? Yes.
Years of court cases filed by school boards and a state Supreme Court ruling have indicated the funding system was legally OK, but barely functional. Now, it seems, legislators are finally talking and not silently walking down the road, kicking the can along the way to the next legislative session.
There is also a proposal to add another 1 cent to the sales tax. This one is interesting. To us, at first blush, it seems like moving one pot of money to the other. There might be room for discussion, but just the thought of raising taxes should be a major point of the discussion.
Again, we commend the state’s legislators for at least starting the conversation about these important topics that have been neglected for years.
As the legislative session starts its home stretch; where bills have been filed, committee hearings have been held, the problems identified and warts, such as the child welfare system, been identified, there is only a few complex questions, remaining.
As of Friday, the Texas Senate was at a stalemate over a sweeping reform measure that would require cities, counties and school districts to seek voter approval for any tax levy increases of more than 2.5 percent in a given year, not including new growth.
With it taking a constitutional amendment to get the sales tax increase, it’s iffy, at best, of being enacted.
To help fix the school finance system, it’s going to take the state kicking in more money.
So, the question is, when the folks in Austin put the jigsaw puzzle together, what’s it going to look like?
• Dave Mathews