Progress Texas Voter Guide On Proposed Texas Constitutional Amendments

We don’t have to increase state debt payments or extend bonding authority, just to make sure kids can go to school and we can drink clean water.

Early voting is underway for the November 8, 2011 general election. There are 10 proposed constitutional amendments. Progress Texas supports the passage of all 10 of the propositions.

While we support all 10 amendments, we take issue on three amendments and the reasons why Texans even have to spend time or resource on these amendments. Three of the constitutional amendments – Prop 2, 3, and 6 – only exist because the conservative ideologues running the Texas Legislature continue to be incompetent. Propositions 2 & 3 give Texas the authority to issue more bonds for water needs and student loans, respectively. Proposition 6 will use budget tricks to free up more money for our public schools.

We don’t have to budget like this. We don’t have to increase state debt payments or extend bonding authority, just to make sure kids can go to school and we can drink clean water. These false choices are the results of nearly a decade of conservative leaders in Texas failing to give money to the things that matter. At the same time the Legislature is refusing to close a $1.2 loophole to natural gas companies that are preparing to dirty our water sources, they are asking voters to increase bonding authority to support projects that clean our water. Texans are being held hostage by conservative budget tricks and we have only two options: fund essential programs, or let Texas deteriorate and fail. While conservatives advocate otherwise, we are too proud of our state to plan for failure.

Either our students in public schools are a priority, or they’re not. Either helping those students go to college is a priority, or it’s not. Either making sure those students and their families have clean water to drink is a priority, or it’s not. The conservative state leadership in this state needs to stop passing the buck to Texas voters to do what they are too scared to do: spend more money to improve the quality of life for every Texan.

Regardless if you agree with our position on these issues, please be sure to vote this election season.

Proposition 1

Language: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran.”

Position: For.

Reason: Texas is right to honor the sacrifice our veterans and their families give to our nation. State tax law allows surviving spouses to maintain residence homestead exemptions for other reasons. Extending this discount prevents a widowed spouse from being hit with a large property tax bill immediately upon the death of his or her spouse.

Proposition 2

Language: “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $6 billion at any time outstanding.”

Position: For

Reason: Texas must meet its water and wastewater needs. Unfortunately, conservative leadership in Texas has left the state with no option except to issue state-backed bonds to pay for our state’s water plan. The best public policy option would be for conservative leadership in Texas to close tax loopholes and free up more money for the state to develop long-term funding solutions. However, lacking such sensible vision and planning, the people of Texas should support Prop 2 to help finance the necessary water and wastewater projects for our state that conservative leaders in Texas refuse to pay for.

Proposition 3

Language: “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of general obligation bonds of the State of Texas to finance educational loans to students.”

Position: For

Reason: Conservatives in the Texas Legislature cut millions of dollars in student financial aid during the recent legislative session. As a result, the cost of college will increase dramatically for students, which means students will need to take out more loans. If Prop 3 does not pass, the state will run out of bond authorization funds to finance these student loans in 2013. Prop 3 helps ensure college is affordable for many Texas students.

Proposition 4

Language: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit a county to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area and to pledge for repayment of the bonds or notes increases in ad valorem taxes imposed by the county on property in the area. The amendment does not provide authority for increasing ad valorem tax rates.”

Position: For

Reason: Reinvestment zones are a smart way to use local tax money to improve communities. Tax increment reinvestment zones (TIRZ), along with transportation reinvestment zones and other such entities, have proven to be successful in developing blighted communities. Prop 4 allows counties the same authority that cities have to use bonds to help finance these projects.

Proposition 5

Language: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to allow cities or counties to enter into interlocal contracts with other cities or counties without the imposition of a tax or the provision of a sinking fund.”

Position: For

Reason: Prop 5 is largely a clarifying constitutional amendment that gives cities and counties the ability to work more efficiently together.

Proposition 6

Language: “The constitutional amendment clarifying references to the permanent school fund, allowing the General Land Office to distribute revenue from permanent school fund land or other properties to the available school fund to provide additional funding for public education, and providing for an increase in the market value of the permanent school fund for the purpose of allowing increased distributions from the available school fund.”

Position: For

Reason: Texas schools are woefully underfunded. The Legislature recently cut funding to Texas’ public schools by at least $4 billion. A lack of resources directly harms classroom education for Texas students – there will be fewer qualified, experienced teachers in the classroom, leading to larger class sizes and, ultimately, greater reliance on standardized tests. According to the Legislative Budget Board, Prop 6 could result in as much as $75.4 million more for Texas’ public schools. All voters should do what conservative leaders in Texas refuse to do: support our public schools.

Proposition 7

Language: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.”

Position: For

Reason: Prop 7 is a local empowerment proposition, which adds El Paso County to the list of counties the Legislature may consider to allow El Paso voters to approve the creation of a parks district.

Proposition 8

Language: “The constitutional amendment providing for the appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes of open-space land devoted to water stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.”

Position: For

Reason: Prop 8 ensures Texas has the clean water we need to live. Known as the “water stewardship amendment,” Prop 8 does not reduce the state’s tax revenues. Instead, it encourages property owners that already qualify for existing agriculture or wildlife incentives to conserve water. This proposition will protect the water quality in Texas’ streams, rivers and aquifers without infringing on the private property rights of any Texan.

Proposition 9

Language: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision.”

Position: For

Reason: A person that completes deferred adjudication and was never convicted of a crime should have the opportunity to have their arrest pardoned from their record. Prop 9 gives the Governor of Texas the option to pardon such individuals, which increases their opportunity to find employment, attend school, secure proper housing, and return to a full life within the community.

Proposition 10

Language: “The constitutional amendment to change the length of the unexpired term that causes the automatic resignation of certain elected county or district officeholders if they become candidates for another office.”

Position: For

Reason: Most elected officials – including district clerks, county judges, county commissioners, sheriffs, and district attorneys – operate under a “resign-to-run” provision. Essentially, if a person has over a year left in their unexpired term when they announce their intention to run, they automatically resign from that position. Prop 10 extends the “resign-to-run” timeline from one year to one year and 30 days, in order to comply with changes in the 2012 election calendar.