Two Years of Texas IAF Opposition Leads to Reforms to Limit Giving School Money for Corporate Tax Breaks
The Texas Senate and House passed a compromised version of HB5 that still fundamentally represents misguided economic development to the benefit of out of state corporations that would come here for other factors anyway. This perpetuates a corporate welfare state which Chambers of Commerce and industry groups could never prove otherwise.
However, a 2-year campaign by Texas IAF and allies led to some major reforms in HB5 compared to the now defunct and failed Chapter 313 program. When these tax abatement deals are proposed at local school districts, there will now be a fair fight for taxpayers and public school supporters concerned about corporate welfare. HB 5 Reforms to Chapter 313 include:Read more
Chapter 313 was one of the country’s worst examples of crony capitalism, funneling billions in Texas taxpayer dollars to out-of-state interests. The program still costs Texas taxpayers over $1 billion a year in tax breaks to major oil, gas and manufacturing companies — money that could go to educating our children.
Dallas Area Interfaith, the Texas IAF, allies and a bipartisan group of legislators killed the reauthorization of Chapter 313 in the 2021 legislative session. Rather than leaving the program in the grave, industry groups are actually proposing to resurrect Chapter 313 this legislative session and make it worse in the form of House Bill 5.
Last September, in a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, industry groups painted an apocalyptic vision of Texas’ economy without Chapter 313. Their statements were based on opinion. Fortunately, we can look to Louisiana to see if their fears are merited.
In 2016, Louisiana reformed its version of Chapter 313, the Industrial Tax Exemption Program. The reforms generated $760 million in new tax revenue for schools and other public entities with no negative impacts on jobs. In fact, capital expenditures grew after the reforms.
Louisiana’s experience mirrors studies on economic development incentives. The Upjohn Institute found that “75% to 98% of the time, the same decision would have been made without the incentive.”
Similarly, a 2017 University of Texas study of Chapter 313 estimated that between 85% and 95% of Chapter 313 projects would have been located in Texas without the incentive. These incentives matter much less than other factors such as the labor force, education, infrastructure and access to markets and materials.
[Image Credit: NewsArt.com/Chris Van Es]
Texas House Passes Plan to Bring Back Corporate Property Tax Breaks for Major Projects, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
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
The Network of Texas IAF Organizations, a labor and faith coalition that has staunchly opposed using school property tax breaks for incentives... railed against the Texas Jobs and Security Act.
"It looks like it was written on the back of a napkin,"
stated Jose Guerrero, a leader with Central Texas Interfaith from Saint Ignatius Catholic Church.
The organization believes the proposed bill would have even less regulation than Chapter 313, including the exclusion of minimum job requirements as a key factor in a project's eligibility for approval. "It is hard to imagine that they would propose a program with even less accountability, fewer specifics (like no job requirements), and more leeway for companies to take taxpayer dollars from school children to line their pockets," Guerrero stated.Read more
"In December, legislators killed a controversial tax abatement program known as Chapter 313, but its effects will last decades....
“There’s no accountability at the statewide level; nobody administers it,” said Bob Fleming, an organizer with [T]he Metropolitan Organization of Houston who campaigned against Chapter 313 reauthorization back in 2021. “A bunch of local school districts make singular decisions based on what they think is in their interest. Nobody is looking out for the statewide interest. Local school districts are overmatched when the $2,000 suits walk into the room.” ....
“It’s a perverse incentive,” said Doug Greco, lead organizer at Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations that helped shut down reauthorization of Chapter 313 in the 2021 legislative session.
“We approach it on a school funding basis,” said Greco, who is already gearing up to fight any Chapter 313 renewal efforts in 2023. “It’s corporate welfare and the people who pay over time are Texas school districts.” ....
Members of Dallas Area Interfaith – which was among the groups that pushed the Legislature to end the controversial Chapter 313 program – cheered at the news. The group mobilized to urge DISD trustees to veto the proposal.
“Does it make sense to continue to grant certain large corporations these huge tax breaks?” DAI leader Bill deHaas said ahead of the meeting. “We already know that we have a crunch on educational spending.”
In a letter to trustees, members of the group argued that the process was rushed to meet the Dec. 31 deadline, keeping the district from doing due diligence.
“At its core, Chapter 313 is inequitable for Texas children....”
Should the DISD deal have gone through, Hanwha would have given the district about $300,000 each year for the next decade for its general fund, said Dwayne Thompson, deputy superintendent of business services.
After the DISD meeting, Dallas Area Interfaith members said they would continue the fight in Austin.
Dallas ISD Punts Tax Break Ask from Manufacturing Company Ahead of Chapter 313 Expiration, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Dallas Area Interfaith Commends DISD Board for Rejecting Chapter 313 Deal with Hanwha Q Cells, Dallas Area Interfaith
DAI Calls on DISD Trustees to Vote Against Hanwha Ch. 313 Application, Dallas Area Interfaith
A section of the Texas tax code that is used by local governments as lucre to attract corporate relocations but that often ends up pitting city against city and school district against school district is set to expire.
Based on hearings last week, there will likely be calls to reinstate it in the next Legislature. That would be a mistake....
In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott complained that each job created by this program cost taxpayers $341,000. Using Abbott’s calculation, the Houston Chronicle updated the numbers last year: now every job created by a 313 incentive costs $1.1 million, the paper reported.
What’s more, a 2018 study by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research found that 313 incentives were the deciding factor in fewer than 25% of relocations, meaning three quarters of the time, the relocation would have happened anyway. Taxing districts are leaving money on the table and cities are fighting cities in a game that actually hurts their residents and students....
in many cases, the choice is not between attracting a company to Texas or failing to do so. The choice is between attracting a company to Taylor or Round Rock; Sherman or Plano.
That highlights another problem: 313 favors districts where it’s easiest to acquire land and build facilities. In an analysis by Dallas Area Interfaith, the losers under 313 are large, urban school districts like Dallas ISD.
[Graphic: Dallas Morning News]
"Dallas Area Interfaith and its related organizations in the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation helped lead the fight to end Chapter 313 in the Texas legislature last year. The group is also opposing new applications at the school board level, a job that’s picking up as applications pour in this summer.
“Typically, we would find about 5% of the school districts would have tax abatements through 313, and it would come to an average of roughly 100 a year,” Dallas Area Interfaith Leader Bill deHaas said. “We’re on the way to tripling that.”
The bipartisan group opposes new agreements on the basis that they hurt Texas schools and students.
“Dallas ISD, on average is losing about $20 million a year because of the tax abatements. They go to only 5% of the state school districts,” deHaas said.
DeHaas’ point is that the vast majority of Texas school districts would receive more funding per student if the state eliminated costs that go to cover 313 agreements.
Since the comptroller frequently waives a job creation requirement, deHaas also said the tax breaks don’t create many local jobs. At the end of 2021, the comptroller recorded more than 9,000 jobs created by $217 billion in investments.
“It just seems to us to be an unfair system to attract new corporations to the state of Texas, and what happens is it penalizes 95% of the students in the state,” he said."
Companies Lining Up for Future Tax Breaks as Texas Incentive Program Nears End, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
When organizers set out to overturn Texas’s giveaway program for the oil and gas industry, they had a long game in mind. Over 20 years, the tax exemption program known as Chapter 313 had delivered $10 billion in tax cuts to corporations operating in Texas — with petrochemical firms being the biggest winners. This year, for the first time in a decade, the program was up for reauthorization. Organizers decided to challenge it for the first time.
At the beginning of last week, as Texas’s biennial legislative session approached its end, the aims of organizers remained modest. “We thought it would be a victory if the two-year reauthorization passed so we could organize in interim,” said Doug Greco, the lead organizer for Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations fighting to end the subsidy program.
At 4 a.m. last Thursday, it became clear that something unexpected was happening: The deadline for reauthorization passed. “The bill never came up,” Greco told The Intercept. Organizers stayed vigilant until the legislative session officially closed on Monday at midnight, but the reauthorization did not materialize....
“No one had really questioned this program,” said Greco, of Central Texas Interfaith. The reauthorization was a once-in-a-decade chance to challenge it. “We knew in our guts that the program was just a blank check, but we also are very sober about the realities of the Texas legislature.”
....As legislators met in a closed session to hammer out the bill, Greco heard from a colleague. “One of my organizers said there’s 20 oil and gas lobbyist standing outside this committee room,” he recalled.
Former Gov. Rick Perry, an Energy Transfer board member, tweeted his support for reauthorization. But as last week of the session ticked by, the bill didn’t come up. “It became clear that the reputation of the program had been damaged,” Greco said.
In 19 months, Texas’s subsidy program will expire, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.
“We know there’s going to be a big conversation over the interim — we are under no illusions that this is not going to be a long-term battle.”
Organizers, though, recognize that the subsidy’s defeat marks a shift: “The table has been reset.”
In Blow to Big Oil, Corporate Subsidy Quietly Dies in Texas, The Intercept [pdf]
How Skeptical Texas Lawmakers Put an End to a Controversial Tax Incentive Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Texas Legislature Dooms Chapter 331, Which Gives Tax Breaks to Big Businesses, Business Journal [pdf]
Missed Deadline Could Doom Controversial $10B Tax-Break Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Losers and Winners from Chapter 313, Central Texas Interfaith