A Common Sense Approach
Property Tax Reform
As panel chair on the McLennan County Tax Appraisal Review Board (ARB) for the past four years, I have been on two sides of the property value appeal process. That experience gives me a unique perspective into what works within the tax appraisal system, and where improvements can be made.
Nobody likes paying taxes, but we all want good public schools, decent roads, a strong police force, and well- equipped emergency responders. All of this takes money, and property taxes are how the state government obtains most of that money. But let’s make sure the property taxing system is as fair as possible so that everyone is paying their fair share and nothing more.
Katherine announces her candidacy on the steps of the McLennan County Courthouse.
The appraisal district and the ARB must work within the guidelines and laws set forth by the Texas legislature, and this is where changes can be made. We can make the system fairer across the board for homeowners and businesses not only for District 56, but for all of Texas. In the Texas House, I will work to make changes in the property tax codes that will make property evaluations fair and equal to all home and business property owners.
Public Education and Financing
I was lucky enough to get a great public education here in District 56 back when the Texas Legislature funded a large percent of the Texas schools’ budgets. However, in the last 10 years alone, the state’s regular contribution to public schools has dropped from 45 percent to 38 percent. That equates to $18.6 billion in lost school funding. State funding to remodel deteriorating schools or build new ones has dropped from 30 to 10 percent in the past 12 years. Property owners have to make up the difference and that's where the problems lie.
Schools in districts with high property values can increase their tax rate and still have enough money to fund their schools. But when districts with lower property values raise their tax rates, they still don't have enough to fund their schools. And now, to further complicate the situation, we have the idea of school vouchers.
A school voucher provides a family with a certain amount of money to help a child to attend a private school --which sounds great in theory, except that for every voucher issued, that same amount of money is taken away from the public school district that child would normally attend. As a result, schools in low income areas get less money, which means those schools struggle even more. If enough students go on vouchers (which are generally not sufficient to fully pay private school tuition), such districts can lose so much in the way of students and funding, they can be forced to shut down entirely. And if that happens,
the rest of the students are left with no choice but to go on vouchers, which eventually eliminates the free public education program altogether --including the sports and other competitive intermural activities that are such an important part of a child's educational experience. In rural areas, few if any private schools are accessible, and parents would be faced with long round-trip commutes to larger cities every day to educate their children.
The Texas Constitution states that the Legislature is required to provide for public education, and they are shirking their duty. Providing our children with an excellent education is vital to our future economy. I will work to make public educations a priority again in the Texas House, so that all children in this district get the education they were promised.
Texas Prison Reform
The total number of people imprisoned in Texas exceeds that of any other state, as well as that of many foreign countries. If gathered together into their own city, the Texas prison population would constitute the state's 20th largest city --with 141,859 inmates in 2017, and more than 2.2 million incarcerated over the past thirty years. Compare that number to the 124,805 people living within the city of Waco.
The ethnic distribution of Texas inmates is mostly males, fairly equally distributed between black, white, and Latino --and each one of them is someone's father, husband, grandparent, child or sibling. The ripple effect on having these citizens dependent on the state and not contributing to the economy and the social fabric of the state is huge.
Texas spends roughly $80 billion each year housing these inmates --billions that could pay for better public schools, infrastructure upgrades, or health care for the citizens of Texas. Why are so many Texans in prison? Some argue that it's our no-nonsense "tough on crime" policy, but the situation is more complicated. Recent statistics indicate that our prison system is little more than a revolving door --not deterring crime or rehabilitating first or second-time offenders. In most cases, it is simply housing prisoners until they serve out their sentences. Very little is being done to identify the causes of this startling, unprecedented level of incarcerations, or to take steps to rehabilitate current inmates and find ways to get them back into the workforce.
When I take my seat in the Texas House I will work to obtain deeper, more detailed analysis into the reasons for these crimes in order to prevent them, and look for ways to rehabilitate inmates more effectively, and examine ways to help offenders when they re-enter society so they can adapt quickly to their freedom and find gainful employment.
In 2014, the pregnancy-related death rate in Texas was 35.8 per 100,000 live births. By contrast, the maternal mortality rate in Japan that year was only 5 per 100,000 and only 3 per 100,000 in Poland. To put it simply, for every 100,000 births, 36 Texas mothers died. While one would think that childbirth should be getting safer due to our modern medical technologies, the maternal mortality rate in Texas has been increasing since 2010. In fact, it doubled between 2010 and 2014. It's getting worse, not better.
WHY does Texas have the highest maternal mortality rate --not only in the United States, but the highest in the entire developed world?
While there are theories, no one yet knows the answer. There are a series of task forces commissioned to study the issue, but they are moving slowly and there does not seem to be a sense of urgency in the Texas legislature. This is a crisis in Texas. These women are our sisters, daughters, wives, and mothers, and they are dying. We must find out why so we can stop this epidemic, and we can’t wait for updates every two years to see how the research is progressing. In the Texas House I will work to make sure the task forces are moving quickly to find the root cause(s) of the increasing maternal mortality rate in Texas and I will do my own part in researching this shocking loss of young mothers. I will also push to make sure all pregnant women in Texas have access to prenatal and postnatal care no matter what their economic status in order to help save lives.
Katherine visited with Joaquin Castro during a 2016 Waco stop.
Improving Race Relations
It’s been over 50 years since the race riots of my earliest memories. But recent events prove that the understanding between cultures in this country still have a very long way to go. District 56 is a beautiful mosaic of cultures, and it is this mosaic that makes living in our District such a rich, rewarding experience. This diversity is our biggest strength. Each culture brings with it art, literature, foods, music and friendships that are precious and unique, and when all these ethnic and social flavors are mixed together, we are all blessed with the most beautiful, vigorous, and vibrant society imaginable.
I would not want our community to progress any other way. But in order to maximize that progress and richness, we have to listen to each other more closely, and try to understand each other’s experience and perspective.
We need to learn that other cultures are not “better” or “worse” than our own, they are simply different. There is no such thing as race. The color of our skin is simply a set
of alleles or “genes” that tell our bodies what color to make our skin, eyes, hair, etc. Culture is derived from our religion, where and how we were raised. Rather than analyzing different cultures on a scale of 1 to 10 based on how much they differ from our own, I want to see us prospering our families, our businesses, and our state at a huge round table where there’s room for all –a human family of equals.
As a Board member of the Community Race Relations Coalition of Waco, I currently strive to help this District come to a better understanding of our different cultures so that we may embrace and celebrate our unique differences. In the Texas House, I will work to bring about this same understanding for all of Texas, and I want this district to be the shining example for the rest of the state.
Katherine with members
of her campaign staff.
Former U.S. House Representative Chet Edwards chatting with Katherine at a campaign event.
With Texas District 17
candidate Dale Mantey.