State lawmakers and Huston Tillotson students announced their intent to form Texas' first Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus to help provide the state's HBCUs with "necessary resources and support to thrive." This effort is an outgrowth of a three-year partnership between Huston-Tillotson University (HTU) and Central Texas Interfaith (CTI), involving leadership education and preparation of students studying political science. Fannie Akingbala, a leader from Ebenezer Baptist Church, co-chaired the press conference.
HBCU students helped organize the caucus, which hopes to assemble state lawmakers from both the Senate and House who represent, attended or support HBCUs and obtain funding for them "commensurate with the role they have played in developing the prosperity" of Texas...Read more
A surprising legislative success in 2021 is on track to be undone in 2023, unless a grass roots left-right coalition can block legislation and the forces behind it that are trying to go backward....
In the name of jobs and economic development, a 2012 tax code trick called Chapter 313 essentially funneled state money, via school district property tax breaks, to private companies doing new industrial construction. The school districts that granted tax breaks under Chapter 313 were reimbursed — and many still are being reimbursed — by the state, meaning we as taxpayers reimbursed them. It was the ultimate insider game of channeling public benefit to private companies.
The [Texas] Industrial Areas Foundation cleverly brought a man dressed as Dracula to its rally to dramatize how Chapter 313 unfairly drained school districts of funds and that reviving this bad economic development deal would be akin to raising the undead.Read more
Over the years, critics argued certain requirements were whittled away and some companies were bringing few or low-paying jobs with little benefits. Some, including a coalition of interfaith leaders with The Metropolitan Organization, Central Texas Interfaith and Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Organizations, have called out the program as “corporate welfare” and for leaving the rest of the Texas taxpayers to essentially “make up the difference.”Read more
Central Texas Interfaith
[Excerpt from FOX 7 Austin]
"The Austin ISD school board has voted against a multi-million dollar tax break for NXP, a semiconductor company...
"It is not fair that those who have the greatest ability to pay are the ones who don't want to pay a dime," Rev. Minerva Camarena Skeith of Central Texas Interfaith said.
The tax break called the appraised value limitation, or 313 agreement, lets potential businesses build property and create jobs in exchange for a 10-year limit on the taxable property value for school district maintenance and operation.
"We want more dollars for AISD and for every school district in this state. We want every child to have every opportunity they need," Rev. Miles Brandon with Central Texas Interfaith said."
NXP Fails to Gain School District Tax Incentives for Possible Factory Expansion, Austin Business Journal
With Weeks to Spare, Austin ISD to Vote on NXP Incentives, Austin Business Journal
Central Texas Interfaith Commends AISD Board for Rejecting Chapter 313 Deal with NXP, Central Texas Interfaith [pdf]
Dallas Area Interfaith
[Excerpt from Dallas Morning News]
"Amid pressure from community advocates, the Dallas schools administration pulled a vote to approve a property tax break for a manufacturing company just before trustees were to weigh in on it Thursday night.
The Texas Economic Development Act – commonly referred to as Chapter 313 based on its position in the tax code – will expire at the end of the month. Companies across Texas are rushing to get deals approved with school districts and lock-in tax abatements ahead of the deadline...
“Does it make sense to continue to grant certain large corporations these huge tax breaks?” Dallas Area Interfaith leader Bill deHaas said ahead of the meeting. “We already know that we have a crunch on educational spending.”
“While we want economic development and good jobs in Central Texas, these agreements prohibit school boards from enacting high living wage and worker safety standards as part of these agreements, unlike city and county incentives, in which good job standards can be negotiated,” said Carlota Garcia of the Central Texas Interfaith organization.
Garcia said these agreements are “Texas’ largest corporate welfare program, which costs taxpayers over $1 billion annually—money that could be going to public schools and other public needs. The state must replace the revenue that the corporations get out of paying in property taxes for 10 years by collecting more taxes from all Texans.”
“We’re not anti-economic development,” said the Rev. Miles Brandon of St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church and member of Central Texas Interfaith. “We believe that all of the dollars we can possibly put together in this state should go to educate our children.”
-Austin Business Journal
“We are a part of the AISD community,” Brandon said. “We implore you to choose your advocates and partners over corporations. It makes certain there will be $100 million less to fight for. It is in our children’s best interest now and in the future.”
-Austin American Statesman
[Photo Credit: Community Impact]
Possible Chapter 313 Agreement Between Austin ISD, NXP Draws Criticism, Community Impact [pdf]
Austin ISD to Vote on NXP Semiconductor's $100M Tax Break, Austin Business Journal [pdf]
Time Ticking for Austin School Board to Vote on Proposed Tax Breaks for NXP Semiconductors, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Reverend Minerva Camarena Skeith of St. John's Episcopal Church explains to Jon Stewart how Central Texas Interfaith/Texas IAF organizations fight corporate incentives that negatively impact public budgets, including schools.
“What’s happening right here, right now, very powerful.” -- Jon Stewart
In a Behind the Scenes Cut, Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith describes how communities can organize.
Full episode and panel discussion streaming on Apple TV+.
Last year Texas IAF organizations led the charge to end Chapter 313, a program that had given away $10 billion in windfall tax breaks for corporations. However, hundreds of Chapter 313 applications are being filed in the rush to get in before the end of the program, including some with projects slated for decades from now.
“It’s like hogs at the trough,” said Bishop John Ogletree, an official with the faith-based Texas Industrial Areas Foundation, which has opposed the arrangements.
Meanwhile, lawmakers and interest groups have begun discussing how to craft a replacement during next year’s legislative session to keep the tax breaks flowing.
The Chapter 313 deals — named for their location in the state tax code — let companies slash 10 years worth of school property tax bills they otherwise would owe on newly constructed factories and energy projects.
Over the past decade the state comptroller’s office has received an average of about 90 applications annually from companies seeking the subsidy.
Since the Legislature adjourned at the end of May 2021, by comparison, records show companies have filed requests for more than 460 new tax breaks — about 400 in the past five months alone.
Typically, companies sought Chapter 313 tax breaks for projects two to four years in the future, with the occasional oil and gas facility taking six or seven years to complete. Since last May, however, companies have applied for 120 of the subsidies for facilities not scheduled to open until at least 2028. At least 10 won’t be online for a decade or more.
Despite the program’s demise, applicants “have figured out how to extend it,” said Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith, of Central Texas Interfaith.
Their strategy seems to be, “Just in case, let’s get 10 years of requests in in one year,” added Bob Fleming, of The Metropolitan Organization, the Houston branch of the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation. “I don’t know anybody who can forecast their needs 30 years out.”
....by slow-walking the end of a program they said was giving away too much money to corporations at the expense of Texas taxpayers, legislators have now put the state on the hook for billions of additional tax breaks that Texans will be paying off well into the middle of the century.
[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle]
"This takes money away from children's education and gives it to corporations, and that is a nonstarter," said Mother Minerva Camarena Skeith, [Reverend of] St. John's Episcopal Church in North Austin. "The corporation was the one that would have been their responsibility as part of our community to do their fair share of investing into our children. Right? And they have abdicated that. They just don't do that. Then we have to pick up the slack."
With Chapter 313 set to expire at the end of the year, the state's comptroller office has received a record number of applications. Since Jan. 1, 2022, school districts sent in 393 company Chapter 313 applications. In any given year before this, the office received maybe 150 applications.
"If all these things get approved, like, we could bankrupt the state," Rev. Miles Brandon worried.
"Anybody who's fiscally conservative at all should have a have a real problem with the unlimited nature of 313."
When NXP sprung a request for a Chapter 313 tax subsidy before the Austin Independent School District, Central Texas Interfaith leaders decided to descend upon a meeting of the Board of Trustees to ask them to reject the request. Chapter 313 tax subsidies are 10 year tax breaks to major gas, oil and manufacturing corporations that drain $1 Billion from state coffers on an annual basis. In response to a barrage of 20 CTI leaders testifying over the phone and in person against the tax giveaway, NXP (the company requesting the subsidy) changed the number of promised jobs on their application during the meeting from the statutory minimum of 25 to 500 overall.
The majority of community members who provided testimony on May 19 asked the board to vote against the Chapter 313 agreement with NXP. [Twenty] speakers were members of Central Texas Interfaith, a nonpartisan coalition of congregations, schools and unions that opposes Chapter 313.
“Hardworking taxpayers don’t get this kind of giveaway. Nor do small businesses, or responsible corporations,” said Central Texas Interfaith leader Trenton Henderson. “We want our money to go to public schools, but not to pay the bills for corporations shirking their responsibility to public education. Without a Chapter 313 agreement, NXP would have to pay their full share of school taxes.”
NXP Seeking Up To $140 Million in Tax Breaks for School Districts, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Chapter 313 Incentives: What They Are and Why They're Suddenly the Talk of the Town, Austin Business Journal [pdf]
Oped: Don't Ask Texas Schoolchildren to Fund Your Corporate Expansion, Austin Chronicle [pdf]
AISD Board Meeting Broadcast, Austin Independent School District [calls begin at -2:33:30, in person testimony at -1:52:30]
NXP Semiconductors, which is based in the Netherlands and has two fabrication plants in Austin, is seeking tax breaks from the Austin Independent School District under the state's Chapter 313 incentive program for proposed expansion. An initial presentation to the district's board Tuesday night didn't specify the amount, but previous incentives agreements from Texas school districts for similar Chapter 313 deals have been for tens of millions of dollars.
The Chapter 313 incentives program — which is named after a portion of the tax code — has been controversial. It's set to expire at the end of this year because state lawmakers declined to renew it during last year's legislative session, although deals struck before then won't be affected....
Under the Chapter 313 program, school districts are reimbursed by the state for the corporate tax breaks they agree to provide. That attribute has made Chapter 313 controversial among critics who say school districts have no reason not to grant them, and that the program siphons money from taxpayers statewide as handouts to corporations.
“There's no such thing as free money," said Doug Greco, lead organizer with Central Texas Interfaith, a group that opposes all Chapter 313 deals and has worked to help end the program.
“It's money that is being drained out of the state budget that could be going to schools," Greco said. "When you add these (deals) up, it's just a drain on the system that we can't sustain. Let's stop the gold rush here."
[Photo Credit: Mark Matson, Austin American Statesman]
Chipmaker NXP Considers Austin for $2.6 Billion Expansion, Up to 800 New Jobs, Austin American Statesman [pdf]