Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What PEAR is Saying Today

Wednesday’s Bottom Line –
Senators should get the message: no backpedaling on equalization as negotiations continue.

  • The conference committee report on CSHB 4 was adopted by both houses Monday. CSHB 4 is the “liar’s affidavit” bill that changes the way used car transactions are treated for sales tax purposes. The House and the Senate had each modified the original bills to address an issue over insurance valuation of “totaled” cars, and were not able to resolve their differences. The CCR does not mention that issue.
  • The Senate debated CSHB 2 Tuesday. The bill had been returned from the House on a point of order. Senator Williams offered an amendment to flow a portion of funds generated through the guaranteed yield rather than the basic allotment which, after some sound and fury, was adopted. The amended bill passed the Senate 20-10 and now goes back to the House.
  • The Senate Finance Committee has reported out CSHB 1, and the battle over recapture moves from the committee to the full Senate. After two days of negotiations, the differences are still unresolved.
    • The Duncan-Staples amendment allows equalization but endangers recapture. It does that by allowing wealthier districts to keep the revenue from additional tax effort (up to four cents) and having the state kick in money to equalize for poorer districts.
    • Here’s the problem: If CSHB 1 survives the Senate and goes back to the House, then recapture will be on the table in conference. So it’s important for Senate members to insist that no bill comes to the floor of the Senate until there’s a guarantee that the Senate version, and specifically the state-funded equalization enhancements, survives any conference committee process.
    • If Dewhurst, Shapiro, et al. cannot make that promise, then CSHB 1 deserves to die. Remember, many of the Senate “add-ons” are problematic:
      • The Magical Disappearing Pay Raise. CSHB 1 promises a pay raise to teachers, but does not give them enough to recover from cuts over the last three years. Plus, it takes away health benefits from 300,000 school support staff like cafeteria workers and janitors.
      • Hey, buddy, wanna buy a school? CSHB 1 proposes to turn schools over to private, so-called “not-for-profit” companies that will manage the schools. If you think HMOs have made your health care better, you’ll love this idea!
      • Support real accountability. Focus on student achievement, not on teaching to the tests. For instance, eliminate the provision tying a school’s funding to English immersion programs, which sacrifice overall education for “gaming” yet another standardized test.
      • Local control. CSHB 1 mandates a uniform start date for the school year and makes it harder for school districts to set tax rates without expensive, time-consuming voter approval.

Message to Senators: Equalization is non-negotiable, and their voters will let them know that if they allow it to be undermined.


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