Dean vows to aid school funding
Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Sept. 13, 2017 at 12:01 a.m.
A Longview lawmaker and energy services businessman resolved Tuesday to help fix the state's public education and property tax issues even if it cuts perks that benefit his own industry.
State Rep. Jay Dean said he will collaborate with legislative, education and business leaders over the biennium in hopes of finding a better way to finance public schools.
Before the Legislature meets in January 2019, Dean wants a plan that reverses growing tax burdens on property owners but adequately funds an education system to meet the state's growing needs, he said.
"We're not going to be able to reduce property taxes, because the state has continued to move more and more of the burden to the local taxpayers so that they don't have to pay it," Dean said during a town hall meeting he conducted at Mobberly Baptist Church and attended by six people. "That's wrong, so we're going to work during the interim on true property tax reform."
The state contributes about 37 percent of every dollar spent on public schools, he said. That's down from about 50 percent several years ago and will likely continue falling, thereby increasing property tax burdens, he said.
Dean suggested that lawmakers look for ways to redirect other state funds to public education. One such example he mentioned was incentives paid to oil and gas producers — incentives created at a time when drilling was a more expensive process but has since become less costly with the advent of fracking and directional drilling technology, he said.
Despite the cheaper cost, those producers are eligible for the same financial incentives, he said.
Even though it might negatively impact oil and gas producers that his private business services, Dean suggested that those incentives might be better spent elsewhere in the state budget.
Dean expressed interest also in using sales tax revenue as a more equitable way to fund education.
"You want to talk illegal immigrant. They go buy something, they pay taxes, too," Dean said, "so (sales tax) appears a bit more fair, but we're going to look at everything and see how to do it."
In attendance Tuesday was White Oak Independent School District Superintendent Mike Gilbert, who is scheduled to join Dean at an all-day education training event for school board members on Friday at Hilton Garden Inn in Longview.
"I'm just here to support him," Gilbert said. "Public educationwise, we're very thankful for Representative Dean's support of what we do and support of our causes at the Legislature, and also just his availability. I was able to call him, text him, whatever I needed to do to get information."
It was the first of two town halls the Longview Republican has scheduled in his district.
A second town hall is planned at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kilgore College Student Center's Devall Ballroom in Kilgore.
Dean is a first-year legislator and represents Gregg and Upshur counties. In February, he was elected to the House Energy Caucus as one of its four vice chairs statewide.
"The main thing is making ourselves available and listening to the concerns of people and trying to develop the interaction so that they feel comfortable about calling you," Dean said.