Former Smith County Commissioner JoAnn Fleming, a longtime leader of the “constitutional conservative movement,” told a meeting of East Texans for Liberty last week that the state should abolish “out of control” school property taxes and replace them with a consumption-based tax.
Fleming, executive director of “Grassroots America-We The People,” outlined what she considers the legislative priorities for the upcoming 2019 session of the Texas legislature. About 50-55 attended the Sept. 10 event at the Lantana Activity Center outside Gilmer.
After the meeting, she said she proposed, in part, to “swap property taxes with a reformed sales tax that includes the broadest base and lowest rate.”
Fleming told the audience that virtually no voters in Republican primaries vote in school board or school bond issue elections, “and you wonder why your property taxes are high?”
She said unborn generations will pay the bond debt back, which is “bondage.”
Also concerning education, Fleming said “good teachers need to be paid better,” but the administrative costs in many public schools fund so many administrators that “they get in the way of teachers.” She lamented that “brainy people in administration have decided they know better than the teacher does.”
While citing school taxes, the speaker said that “constitutional carry (of firearms) is the number one issue” in the upcoming legislative session. Fleming elaborated that she is for “maintaining licensing,” and that favoring constitutional carry is part of the state Republican Party’s platform.
Noting that all the legislators she has spoken with say “the governor (Republican Greg Abbott) doesn’t want that bill,” she said her response is “What do we need you (legislators) for (if lawmakers are always going to go along with the governor?)”
Other priorities Fleming cited were “pro-life” legislation, religious freedom and privacy, and restoring “some teeth in” the requirement that employers use “E-verify” to make sure a worker is not an illegal alien.
She said conservatives also want E-verify enforced.
Fleming said some employers want “cheap labor (from such aliens) for their bottom line,” but that, “I am not for lawless” businesses which hire them.
The speaker also said that the solution to Texas’ problems is a “strong, well-informed, grassroots army,” and that the Texas Grassroots Conservative Coalition has grown 85 percent in one year. It got some bad proposed legislation killed, and some good bills, such as anti-sanctuary cities legislation and anti-voter fraud legislation, passed in the state legislature, Fleming said.
“We want to widen and deepen” the conservative movement to get the Republican platform passed in the legislature, she added.
“We (the state government) spend way too much money,” Fleming asserted, arguing the budget has “way too much corporate welfare.”
For example, she said, the state pays the film industry to come to the state when it would come anyway. In addition, state officials committed millions “in handouts” for Formula One racing in Austin, and “Until the grassroots started talking about it, nobody knew about it.
“It’s time to re-prioritize the way we spend money in the state of Texas,” Fleming argued, saying “some of our retirement funds are underwater.” She further complained that 32 percent of the state budget is funded by the federal government, which “can’t balance its own books” and is “stealing” from the future.
Fleming also said that while “Texans pay a lot of money into the federal treasury,” the state had received more back than it has paid in since 2008.
Meantime, she accused state legislators of claiming “they passed the most conservative budget,” only to then say they had to additionally fund some items. She said they do not know what is in the budget by the time they vote on it.
Fleming also argued, “We need to rein in spending at the local level,” saying county governmental spending has gone up 256 percent, and that spending by both cities and schools has increased more than 200 percent, in 20 years. She criticized schools for spending money on “goofy things” like water parks, saying voters “need to be able to reject that.”
Asked about local officials’ complaints about the state saddling them with unfunded mandates, Fleming suggested citizens ask them for a list of such mandates and tell them they (citizens) will talk to state officials about it.
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