Once again our state representative, John Kuempel, has mailed one of his puff pieces to residents in Guadalupe and Wilson counties. As usual, he touts purported accomplishments which are, as often as not, failures.
His missive spends half a page on state funding for public education and without background it sounds pretty good until you realize that the state still hasn’t restored all the funding it took away in 2011. Instead of fully restoring funding, our legislature with Kuempel’s vote in favor chose to forcibly reduce property tax rates school districts around the state had used to make up for the state cuts. So he’s cheering about a solution to a problem he helped cause in the first place.
In the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, where I live, my property taxes will go down a whopping $12 a month. That’s not enough to buy a half tank of gas and I’m not going to notice it in my monthly budget. Had our district been allowed to keep some or all of those funds, we wouldn’t have to again request a waiver on the maximum number of students per teacher in Kindergarten to third-grade classes. Kindergarten to third is the age where children learn the most quickly and need the most attention, and our district, like many others, still can’t cover the cost to properly educate them.
It isn’t just that Kuempel and his Republican cronies haven’t fully restored funding of public education, they also restricted how the additional funding they did provide can be spent.
It never ceases to amaze me that the politicians who talk the most about local control and not forcing one-size-fits-all solutions on the public are the very ones most likely to do the exact opposite. I think we’d all have been better served if the state had left the choice to maintain or reduce property taxes up to the various districts.
Kuempel goes on to tout what he calls increased transparency in property taxes, but in reality it’s just a requirement to hold elections to increase property tax rates. If he really believed in transparency, he’d work for passage of legislation that requires purchase price of every transfer of real property to be reported to the local appraisal district. Right now, wealthy folks who purchase multi-million dollar homes often use the option to not report so that the home can’t be properly appraised, and therefore save thousands and tens of thousands on their taxes, all while you and I pay the full share.
Our former Republican state senator, Jeff Wentworth, tried for a decade to pass such a bill. If Kuempel is going to talk about transparency, he should have the integrity to stop protecting the rich folks behind the curtain.
Another area where Kuempel obfuscates is his claim the legislature provided funding to cover shortfalls in Medicaid and state hospitals. Had he and his Republican colleagues voted to accept Medicaid expansion as offered under the Affordable Care Act the federal government would have provided an additional $100 million to Texas every year. That funding would have assured that many, if not all, of the rural hospitals that have closed and will close in the next few years were funded without costing Texas taxpayers a dime.
The general theme here is that Kuempel is taking credit for half measures designed to smooth over problems he and his fellow Republicans created in the first place.
This time next year, we may have a chance to replace him. I hope voters will see through the fog of Republican claims and elect someone who believes in solutions not band-aids.