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Giving tax breaks to those that don’t need them

You can add this to the list of things schools might have to pay for that they don’t have the money to pay for.

Three environmental commissioners appointed by Gov. Rick Perry are considering whether to grant some of the nation’s largest refineries a tax refund of more than $135 million money Texas’ cash-strapped schools and other local governments have been counting on to help pay teachers and provide other public services.

The property tax refund would mean more pain for some communities after a year in which state lawmakers slashed spending on public schools to deal with a budget shortfall. Nearly half of the refund would be taken from public schools, and those in cities where the refineries are based would be hurt most.

“We were already cut at the knees as it is, but more cuts? It’s appalling,” said Patricia Gonzales, whose 13-year-old twins attend Park View Intermediate School in Pasadena, a refinery town just south of Houston. Gonzales is president of the school’s new parent-teacher organization, formed this summer after the state budget cuts.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is evaluating 16 requests for the refund, which concerns a piece of pollution control equipment. If granted, the refund total could add up to more than $135 million, according to county tax data and application documents analyzed by The Associated Press. If the commission grants the requests, at least 12 other refineries that have not sought a refund also could qualify.

The three-person commission last year expressed some support for the refund.

See here for the background. Remember that the TCEQ is populated entirely by Rick Perry cronies, so if this goes through, you know where the buck stops. A breakdown of which district would owe what is here. Note that in addition to school districts, counties would lose millions as well – Harris County could wind up taking a $50 million haircut. The refiners themselves claim the actual numbers would probably be much lower, but unless that actual number is zero, I say it’s too much.

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2 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    So, Kuff, even if the equipment meets the requirement for exemption, you would refuse to grant the property owners the refund of overpaid taxes? Under your argument, HCAD ought to appraise your house at twice the current value, because you can “afford to pay more”, then deny you the exemptions to which you are entitled.

    It’s very simple. If the equipment meets the requirement for exemption, and the owners have overpaid taxes, the refunds must be paid, regardless of whether it puts a strain on the government entities. I do not have a problem with anyone, person or corporation, doing their best to seek exemptions to which think they are entitled.

    The only real point for discussion is whether Texas law requires that the pollution control benefit be at the site. That’s not really clear to me. It’s not clearly spelled out in the law or the regulations.

  2. Ross,

    If you actually read the story, this is a case of the political appointees possibly overruling the commission’s staff, which ruled that the plants did not, in fact, meet the requirement for the exemptions. The Commissioners say they believe the Legislature “probably intended a broader interpretation” of the law. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like political activism to me. So this is nothing like what HCAD does. Put that on top of the cuts that the affected counties and school districts have already incurred, none of which will be reimbursed by the state, and yes, I think this is a terrible idea.

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