Central Texas Interfaith Ramps Up Pressure on Austin ISD Board as Chapter 313 Deadline Looms

As the December 31st expiration date for final certification of Chapter 313 tax break applications approaches, Central Texas Interfaith calls on the state comptroller's office to not rush into certifying the nearly 200 potential project applications still in the pipeline, including Samsung and NXP.  The looming deadline does not give nearly enough time for school boards and community members to properly evaluate any more deals.  It is time to turn the page.  

[Excerpts from Austin Business Journal and Austin America Statesman]

"A vote has been delayed on whether to grant NXP Semiconductors NV property tax abatements that could aid its expansion of manufacturing facilities in Austin, edging the request very close to an end-of-year deadline...

The looming loss of the program has been lamented by many members of the business community, but because it limits public school property taxes, Chapter 313 has been opposed by some community organizations, including [Central Texas Interfaith, formerly known as] Austin Interfaith. 'While we want economic development and good jobs in Central Texas, Chapter 313 prohibits school boards from requiring 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,' Central Texas Interfaith and other progressive groups said in a Nov. 17 statement calling for AISD trustees to vote against the deal."

***

"With the expiration of Chapter 313 fast approaching, representatives of Central Texas Interfaith, an organization that has opposed the program because of its impact on statewide school funding, said the comptroller's office shouldn't be rushed into certifying the applications in the remaining backlog, 'given the billions of taxpayer dollars that are at stake.'

In addition, 'any application certified at this point (almost at Thanksgiving) does not give local taxpayers and school boards nearly enough time to properly deliberate and make decisions on these decades long obligations,' said the Rev. Miles Brandon, clergy leader with Central Texas Interfaith. 'It's time to turn the page on this failed program.'

Central Texas Interfaith and other critics of Chapter 313 have said the program has slipshod oversight and guidelines, calling it a mechanism for taxpayer-funded giveaways to corporations at the expense of statewide funding for education."

[Photo Credit: Arnold Wells, Austin Business Journal]

Decision on NXP's Chapter 313 incentives in Austin Coming Down to the WireAustin Business Journal [pdf]

As End of Texas Tax Break Looms, Fate Unclear for Billions in Potential ProjectsAustin American Statesman [pdf]

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Faith, Labor & Policy Orgs Call on AISD to End Consideration of NXP's Application

[Excerpt]

We, the undersigned, call on all AISD Trustees and Trustees-Elect to end consideration of NXP’s $100Million Chapter 313 property tax break application to the Board. While we want economic development and good jobs in Central Texas, Chapter 313 prohibits school boards from requiring 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. Chapter 313 is a failed corporate giveaway program that was killed in the last legislative session by Central Texas Interfaith/Texas IAF, the Texas AFL-CIO, and other union and advocacy groups.  Central Texas Interfaith calls on all AISD trustees to vote against NXP’s Chapter 313 application to the Board. 

Chapter 313 is Texas’ largest corporate welfare program which costs taxpayers over $1 Billion annually, money which could be going to public schools and other public needs.  Not only do corporations get out of paying most of their property taxes (for 10 years) they would otherwise owe for our schools, but the state must replace that revenue with taxes collected from all Texans. The current legislation ends in December of 2022, which has led to a “gold rush” of over 450 applications, which could cost taxpayers as much as $10 Billion/year. Not only do state taxpayers foot the bill for this with state taxes; over time, local taxpayers and businesses will also be paying more. With the support of Central Texas Interfaith and its sister organization Valley Interfaith, school boards in Elgin ISD and Port Isabel ISD school have rejected Chapter 313 applications, as well as several other districts. We urge AISD to do the same....

Full Statement from Faith, Labor and Policy Organizations

 

 

 

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As Deadline Approaches, CTI Leaders Persist in Push Against NXP Tax Break

[Excerpts]

“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.” 

-Community Impact

“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 CriticismCommunity Impact [pdf]

Austin ISD to Vote on NXP Semiconductor's $100M Tax BreakAustin Business Journal [pdf]

Time Ticking for Austin School Board to Vote on Proposed Tax Breaks for NXP SemiconductorsAustin American Statesman [pdf]

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CTI Calls On AISD Trustees to Vote Against NXP’s Chapter 313 Proposal

2211_nxp.pngThe AISD board is scheduled to vote on a $100 Million Chapter 313 school property tax break to NXP corporation at its Thursday, Nov 17th meeting, with a board information session scheduled for Thursday Nov. 10th.  While we want economic development and good jobs in central Texas, Chapter 313 prohibits 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. Chapter 313 is a failed corporate giveaway program that was killed in the last legislative session by Central Texas Interfaith/Texas IAF, the Texas AFL-CIO, and other union and advocacy groups. Central Texas Interfaith calls on all AISD trustees to vote against NXP’s Chapter 313 application to the Board.

Chapter 313 is Texas’ largest corporate welfare program which costs taxpayers over $1Billion annually, money which could be going to public schools and other public needs.  Not only do corporations get out of paying the property taxes (for 10 years) they would otherwise owe for our schools, but the state must replace that revenue with taxes collected from all Texans. The current legislation ends in December of 2022, which has led to a “gold rush” of over 450 applications, which if passed could cost taxpayers as much as $10 Billion/year.

WEAK/NONEXISTENT JOB AND WORKER SAFETY REQUIREMENTS IN CHAPTER 313

  • Chapter 313 has NO wage, job creation, or worker safety requirements for construction and building trade jobs.
  • For permanent jobs, Chapter 313 has extremely weak job creation and wage requirements, and no workers safety requirements.
    • Companies are only required to create between 10-25 permanent jobs regardless of the size of the tax break.
    • These jobs are only required to meet 110% of the median manufacturing wage.
    • There are no worker safety requirements required by Chapter 313.
  • The Comptroller routinely grants waivers even to these weak requirements.
  • School boards are prohibited by law from enacting stronger wage, job creation, and worker safety requirements.

NXP APPLICATION TO AISD FOR CHAPTER 313 AGRREMENT

  • NXP (formerly Motorola/Freescale) is Dutch multinational Chip Manufacturer with nearly $11 Billion in annual profits is asking for over $100 Million in school property tax breaks over the next 10 years to expand its operation in Austin.  Ordinary taxpayers, small businesses, and most other corporations do not get these tax breaks.
  • In its initial applications to the AISD board, NXP promised only 50 jobs in exchange for its tax break, at a cost to taxpayers of $2,000,000/job. After being called out by CTI, the company changed the jobs promised to 500 on the night of the initial board meeting, but still short of the 800 it had promised in the media. 
  • Central Texas taxpayers will be investing in 3 major bonds (AISD, ACC, City of Austin) and are facing rising Austin Energy rates and other inflation costs. Now is not the time to grant tax breaks to billion-dollar corporations. 
  • NXP is free to approach the city and county for tax incentives, entities which have much higher job creation and worker safety requirements. They also have the newly passed federal CHIPS Act available for them to pursue public funding.  Unlike Chapter 313, these programs do not take potential funding from schoolchildren.
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Bastrop Interfaith, Friends of the Land Defeat Chapter 313 Deal in Elgin

Bastrop Interfaith and Friends of the Land, a farmland preservation coalition, worked with local Elgin residents and landowners to defeat a 10-year Chapter 313 corporate tax abatement at the Elgin ISD School Board last night by a unanimous vote. Solar Proponents, a startup owned by an oil and gas hedge fund, would have clear-cut over 2,100 acres of trees bisected by Little Sandy Creek to build an industrial solar farm. While the community had been testifying monthly since May at the school board meetings against the project, last night was the first time the public got to hear from Solar Proponent about the project. Speakers argued the project endangered Greenbriar Community School and neighboring homes with water runoff in an area already prone to flooding with an already diminishing refuge for wildlife.

“In these past six months, we haven’t heard a single person speak in favor of this project. Compare that to more than 1100 signers of our petition to stop this project and all the comments here you have so patiently listened to since then,” said Skip Connett, a leader with Bastrop Interfaith and founder of Friends of the Land at last night’s school board meeting.

“We spoke for our communities and our trees. Our school board listened,” Connett said after the vote.

This past May, Bastrop Interfaith and Friends of the Land, one of its member institutions, opposed the initial Chapter 313 application which would have given the company a 10-year school property tax abatement from Elgin ISD. Chapter 313, Texas’s largest corporate welfare program, costs taxpayer $1Billion/year to fund these tax breaks, money which could be going to public schools.  Chapter 313’s reauthorization was killed last legislative session by Bastrop Interfaith and the Texas IAF along with allies. However, the program doesn’t expire until this December, and there has been a rush of nearly 500 applications by companies looking to get tax breaks before the deadline.

Bastrop Interfaith Commends Elgin ISD Board for Rejecting Chapter 313 Deal [pdf]

Friend of the Land, Bastrop Interfaith Oppose Dogwood Creek Solar 313 Application to ElginElgin Courier


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West/Southwest IAF Delegation Visits Pope Francis

Delegation of West/Southwest IAF leaders and organizers stands with Pope Francis. [Photos credit: Rabbi John Linder]

Our network had the rare opportunity to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican.  

An interfaith delegation of 20 leaders and organizers from the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation met with him to share our collective work of broad based organizing at a time when the Pope is guiding the global church in a historic Synod listening process.

The Holy Father sat side by side with us in his residence, thanking us for inconveniencing ourselves to come see him.  What ensued was a true dialogue, a 90-minute conversation in Spanish with lots of back and forth engagement.  The encounter was filled with many graced moments about both the joys and the struggles of our work, and the work of the Church, past, present, and to come. 

This invitation to meet was in large part due to the recognition of our work by local Bishops, particularly those involved with the 'Recognizing the Stranger' strategy, which is dedicated to formation and leadership development of immigrant parishioners. As well, our involvement to support the Synod process in multiple dioceses has helped to bring those in the margins to the center of the synodal dialogue. 

As we shared our experiences of organizing, we were struck by how carefully he listened, asked questions, and engaged with lots of humor. Early on, he reflected back to us, “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar,’... Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes es parte de alguna teoría.  Ninguno dice ‘leí un libro y me interesó eso.’” (You constantly use the words “to see” and “to listen.. I am impressed that none of you start with any theory. No one says ‘I read a book and that interested me.’)  “El peligro es intelectualizar el problema” (The danger is when you intellectualize a problem).

He stressed the importance of being with people and paying  attention to their reality, emphasizing Amor Concreto, love concretely in action, saying that he understood our work as seeing and hearing of injustice in the real lives of our people, acting to change the situation, and being changed ourselves as a result. He expressed his appreciation for our focus on what we are doing, rather than to complain about what is not being done or to disparage anyone. Ustedes no menospreciaron a nadie.”

Before concluding, he thanked us for our visit, saying that although he had never known of IAF before, he was glad that he knew us now, and he welcomed further conversation around our continuing work with the Synod process.

We teach that power recognizes power.  For Pope Francis, “el verdadero poder es el servicio,” (“true power is service”).  Recounting the Good Samaritan, he clearly stated that the Gospel cannot be understood without acting with those who are suffering.  He recognized the leaders and organizations of the IAF and the powerful work that is happening every day at the margins. He referred to the IAF as “Good News for the United States.”

We are humbled to represent the many decades of work from those who preceded us, and we are encouraged in the continuation of our work into the future.  

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CTI/Texas IAF Fight Against Chapter 313 Featured in The Problem With Jon Stewart

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+.

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Corridor Interfaith Leaders Secure 10% Boost in Hays Co. Investment in Capital IDEA

In meetings with Hays County Commissioners, Corridor Interfaith leaders in Central Texas emphasized the importance of workforce development in one of the fastest growing counties in the county.  The Commissioners Court responded, increasing its public investment in long-term job training by 10% to $55,0000 in the upcoming fiscal year.  

Capital IDEA graduate Mary Helen testified, saying: "After working as a paramedic... I went back to college and earned my RN degree. I currently work as an ICU nurse at Ascension Seton Network and provided care to the first COVID patients in our region."      

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CTI Leaders Testify Against Ch 313 in Texas Ways & Means Committee

[Excerpt]

The Chapter 313 program, authorized in 2001, allows Texas school districts to cap the taxable value of a property for some new projects, saving companies tens of millions of dollars in taxes, or more. It is set to expire at the end of December, after a bipartisan coalition in 2021 stopped efforts to reauthorize the program.

Critics of Chapter 313 call it corporate welfare that deprives Texas public schools of funding....

The Rev. Miles Brandon of St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church in Round Rock spoke in support of ending the program for good. He appeared on behalf of the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation and Austin Interfaith, both community... groups.

"We draw a hard line at using school funding for corporate tax funding," Brandon said at the hearing. "In our minds, it is shameful to take money from school children to line the pockets of wealthy corporations. It seems like greed of biblical proportions. Economic development should never be a threat to the well-being, competitiveness and growth of our most precious, God-given assets. More precious than fossil fuels, more precious than green energy, more precious than electric cars, more precious than computer chips: our children, whose education and future are being bankrupted by Chapter 313."
[Image Credit: KVUE]

State Lawmakers Discuss Bringing Back Tax Incentive Program for School DistrictsKVUE [pdf]

Clock is Ticking on Texas' Chapter 313 Incentives -- and Major Projects May Miss OutAustin Business Journal [pdf]

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CTI Leaders Commend Mayor & Council, and Celebrate $20/hr Wage Floor and Budget Wins for Families

Last night the City of Austin voted on a budget that includes one of the highest living wages for their workers: $20/hr for municipal workers including contracted workers and those employed by corporations benefiting from City tax subsidies.  At the urging of Central Texas Interfaith, through meetings with individual council members and communications that persisted even as votes were taken on amendments, the City of Austin expanded emergency assistance for struggling renters and sustained spending on essential human development initiatives including long-term workforce development and after-school programs.

Specifically, the Council approved: 

  • $20/ hour base pay for all City of Austin staff, contract employees and employees of corporations receiving City tax subsidies - Sponsored by CM Fuentes 
  • $8 Million in emergency rental assistance - Sponsored by CM Vela
  • $3.1 Million for long term workforce development - Sponsored by CM Alter
  • Increased funding for AISD programs including Parent Support Specialists and Primetime After School programs - Sponsored by CM Tovo

Central Texas Interfaith commends the Mayor and the entire City Council for investing in these important initiatives. 

Austin Councilmembers Approve Budget Amendment to Include $20 Minimum WageKVUE

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