The Port Arthur News
In Wednesday’s edition, we outlined reasons to support Proposition 2 in the Tuesday, Nov. 8, state constitutional amendment election. Today we will highlight two other amendments that deserve support on one of the 10 on the ballot that voters should defeat.
• Prop. 1 should receive 100 percent support in our state. It would allow the spouse of a totally disabled veteran to continue to receive a property tax exemption for their home after the veteran’s death. Current law fully exempts the residential homestead of a totally disabled veteran from property taxes. This amendment would allow the legislature to continue that exemption for the spouse if it was the residence of the surviving spouse when the veteran died, if the surviving spouse continued to live in the home, and if the surviving spouse had not remarried. The exemption would follow the surviving spouse if he or she purchased a new home and had not remarried. The exemption would be limited to the dollar amount of the previous homestead.
The spouse of a totally disabled veteran has done their duty for the state and they should not be punished with a new tax obligation when they lose their loved one. Voters should show their support for the sacrifices made by the disabled veteran and their spouse by voting yes on Proposition 1.
• Proposition 3 would allow the legislature to issue additional bonds to support the popular and effective Hinson-Hazelwood College Student Loan Program. The H-H student loan program has a strong record of success and is self-supporting. Money from student loan repayments pay the interest and principal on the bonds. Voters have approved seven constitutional amendments since 1965 authorizing bonds to finance the program. It is estimated that the remaining bonds will be exhausted in 2013.
Prop. 3 gives “evergreen” authority that would enable the H-H program to continue without repeated and costly constitutional amendment elections. The amount of bonds that could be issued would be limited to the total amount that had previously been authorized by voters. But under the evergreen provision, once money was repaid, it could be loaned out again.
Cutbacks in other grant and loan programs and the continued escalating cost of a college education make this loan program more critical than ever for Texas students. Texas voters will be casting a vote for investment in the future by voting yes on Prop. 3.
• Prop. 6 looks like an easy way to add $300 million a year to funding public education in the state, but in reality it is a continuation of the spend-down of savings and resources devoted to future generations. Texas voters should vote no on the proposition to allow revenue to be spent from the Permanent School Fund that should be invested for the future. State legislators underfunded public education by $4 billion for the next two years in the latest session, forcing many districts to spend down their reserves to keep from laying off teachers.
Many districts, including those in the Golden Triangle, had to do both, spend reserves and cut back staff and programs. We learned important lessons during Hurricanes Rita and Ike how important those reserves are when buildings were damaged but insurance companies and FEMA were slow to reimburse districts for rebuilding and reroofing. Prop. 6 looks like a similar attack by state legislators on the Permanent School Fund.
The Texas Constitution of 1876 wisely set aside half of Texas’ public lands to fund the Permanent School Fund, which helps finance public schools. Proceeds from the land and mineral rights are held in the Permanent School Fund. Only interest or revenue income from the fund can be spent. The principal amount remains intact and will continue to finance public schools in the state.
Prop. 6 would allow up to $300 million a year of assets that should be part of the Permanent School Fund to be allocated to districts. While the need is great and schools could use the funding, legislators chose to let a rainy day fund that has reached up to $9 billion in value to sit intact rather than fund public education. This attack on the Permanent School Fund is a shortsighted attempt to find new funding for classrooms today. What begins as $300 million a year could grow if this amendment passes with additional attempts in the future to spend the Permanent School Fund the founding fathers of Texas so wisely created.
Tell Texas legislators no, we will not foolishly spend our savings for the future of education to solve today’s problems. Vote no on Prop. 6.