Central Texas Interfaith Calls on Mayor and Council to Include Substantial Funding for Mobile Home Parks in Proposed Affordable Housing Bond

CTI has supported previous affordable housing bonds because they have advanced the preservation and creation of affordable housing including: homes for both renters and prospective buyers, permanent supportive housing, home repair for low-income homeowners, etc. However, often overlooked are the needs of residents of mobile home parks.  While Central Texas Interfaith (CTI) supports the principle that the City of Austin increase its investment in affordable housing and likes many of the priorities discussed in the initial bond conversations, we call on the council to include strategies for mobile home renters to receive substantial funding by the proposed affordable housing bond. 

Mobile home park residents, including those who own their home but rent the land underneath their home, are often required by their landlords to quickly repair and/or renovate their homes or face displacement.  To remain in Austin, mobile home residents need access to home repair funds - which currently exclude them.  More importantly, they need a mobile home park stabilization strategy – one designed to stabilize rents and prevent displacement.  The City can play a role by facilitating the purchase of mobile home parks for strategies including: community land trusts, cooperative resident ownership, and/or transfer to a nonprofit or lower profit entity.    

Central Texas Interfaith congregations and non-profits are directly engaged with mobile home park residents in our communities, and know the challenges they face.  For CTI to be fully supportive and engaged in advocating for another affordable housing bond, we urge the council to include substantial funding for mobile home park communities in any proposed bond and city budget.

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Thermometers Burst as CTI Raises Temp of Fight Over Corporate Tax Breaks

Last summer, Central Texas Interfaith/Texas IAF leaders and nonprofit allies shut down Chapter 313 (a state tax exemption program giving away hundreds of millions of dollars per year to industrial and petrochemical companies). Since then, over 400 corporate applications flooded the system ahead of the program's expiration date at the end of this year -- more than twice as many than before.  Central Texas Interfaith leaders took to every medium available to raise the alarm about the potential impact on school district budgets across the state.

[Excerpts from Austin American-Statesman]

"It's fiction," said Trenton Henrichson, a computer engineer and a leader of Central Texas Interfaith, a group that is opposed to the incentives. "If you're talking about (fabrication plants) 10 years in the future... you’re just making stuff up.”

....Leaders of Central Texas Interfaith called such applications "smoke and mirrors," saying the plans are fuzzy and local officials have no way to evaluate them. The organization helped lobby against renewal of the Chapter 313 program during last year's session of the state Legislature, saying the corporate tax breaks granted under it have decreased the amount of money available for public education in the state.

'Smoke and Mirrors' or Long-Range Planning? Possible Samsung Tax Breaks Stir Debate, Austin American-Statesman

Report: Samsung Adding Land to $17B Semi-conductor Campus in Taylor, Considering 11 New Facilities, KVUE

What Could Epic Samsung Expansion Mean for Central Texas? Opportunities Savored, Concerns Raised, Austin Business Journal

Samsung Ask Texas Taxpayers To Foot $4.8 Billion Bill For Future School Taxes. Governor Abbott Endorses Biggest Corporate Welfare Deal in Texas History, Central Texas Interfaith

As Glut of Corporate Tax Break Applications Rush In, CTI Explains Opposition to Chapter 313, KVUE & Elgin Courier

CTI Leaders Take Hard Stand Against NXP's Corporate Welfare Request to AISD, Community Impact, CBS Austin, Austin Business Journal, Austin Chronicle, and Austin Independent School District

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CTI Persists in Call for $22/Hr Living Wage

Enrique_Saenz.jpg[Excerpt]

Henry Saenz is technically retired but has been working part-time for the city of Austin as a facility service representative at the Austin Convention Center since 2006. In that time, his hourly pay has gone from $9 an hour to $15 an hour.

Saenz lives with his 98-year-old mother and doesn’t have to pay rent, which is how he affords to stay in the city, he said. When his mother dies and his family sells the house, he’ll have to move, he said.

“I hate to leave this town, but I just can't afford to live here,” Saenz said. “I can imagine how hard it is for someone who doesn't have the advantages that I've experienced, whose money has to go to rent.”

In his role with Central Texas Interfaith, a local advocacy group, Saenz has been among those calling on the city to pay all its employees at least $22 per hour.

[Photo Credit: Kamryn Wooten]

Austin Considers Proposal for a $22 Minimum Wage for All City Employees, Austin American Statesman [pdf

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As Glut of Corporate Tax Break Applications Rush In, CTI Explains Opposition to Chapter 313

[Excerpts]

"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."

State Sees Rush of Tax Break Applications as Program Soft Deadline Approaches, KVUE 

Friends of the Land, Bastrop Interfaith, Oppose Dogwood Creek Solar 313 Application to Elgin ISDElgin Courier

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Central Texas Interfaith, Allies Call for Austin Living Wage Increase to $22/Hour

[Excerpt]

Council members got an earful Tuesday from the Living Wage Working Group, made up of unions and workers’ advocates, on why they say the living wage needs to be increased to $22 in the upcoming city budget. It’s been stuck at $15 since 2018.

"The high cost of living makes it difficult for city employees to live in the city that they work in,"

said [Rev.] Minerva Camarena-Skeith of [St. John's Episcopal Church and] Central Texas Interfaith.

The proposed change would apply to most city workers, from construction workers to airport employees to lifeguards, as well as workers for companies contracted by the city or companies which receive tax abatements. Departments citywide are plagued with high vacancy rates, as they lose workers to higher-paying private-sector jobs.

"$22 an hour is a starting place. We believe that it's still not a living wage," said Fabiola Barreto, Austin Policy Coordinator with the Workers Defense Project.

Austin City Council Considers Raising Living Wage for Workers, FOX News 7 [pdf] 

City Must Raise Wages to $22/Hour Working Group Says, Austin Monitor 

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CTI Leaders Take Hard Stand Against NXP's Corporate Welfare Request to AISD

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. 

[Excerpt]

The majority of community members who provided testimony on May 19 asked the board to vote against the Chapter 313 agreement with NXP. Many 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.”

Austin ISD Moves Forward With Semi-Conductors Agreement, Faces Community OppositionCommunity Impact [pdf]

Austin ISD Considering Proposal That Would Help Lower Recapture Payments, Faces OppositionCBS Austin [pdf]

NXP Seeking Up To $140 Million in Tax Breaks for School DistrictsAustin American Statesman [pdf

Chapter 313 Incentives: What They Are and Why They're Suddenly the Talk of the TownAustin Business Journal [pdf]

Statement on Austin ISD and Round Rock ISD Chapter 313 Votes, Central Texas Interfaith  

Oped: Don't Ask Texas Schoolchildren to Fund Your Corporate ExpansionAustin Chronicle [pdf

AISD Board Meeting Broadcast, Austin Independent School District [calls begin at -2:33:30, in-person testimony at -1:52:30] 

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CTI Opposes NXP Chapter 313 Application to AISD

For Immediate Release

Contact: Father Miles Brandon – 512-484-0590

May 18, 2022

Central Texas Interfaith Statement Opposing NXP Chapter 313 Application to AISD

It is shameful to take money from schoolchildren to line the pockets of multinational corporations. Central Texas Interfaith unequivocally opposes NXP’s request for 10-year tax abatement from AISD under the failed Chapter 313 program. During the 2021 Texas legislative session, Central Texas Interfaith and its Texas IAF sister organizations, with bi-partisan legislative support, stopped the reauthorization of Chapter 313, the state’s largest corporate welfare program which drains over $1Billion/year in potential money for public schools and lines the pockets of oil, gas, and manufacturing companies.

Hardworking taxpayers don’t get this type of giveaway, nor do small businesses or responsible corporations. We want our tax money to go to public schools, but not to pay the bill for corporations shirking their responsibility to public education. Without a Chapter 313 tax giveaway, NXP would have to pay its full share of school taxes, which would directly benefit Texas schoolchildren.

NXP’s Chapter 313 application was posted less than 24 hours before AISD Trustees are set to vote on it today. As a citizens’ organization, we are at a loss as to how we even have a public debate about accepting an application whose terms were made public just hours before a board meeting. We want good jobs, we want companies to expand in Austin, but we want NXP to pay their fair share of taxes to Texas schoolchildren like the rest of us.

See our Myths versus Realitiesdocument on NXP’s request for a Chapter 313 giveaway.

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Central Texas Interfaith is a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-issue coalition of 50 religious congregations, schools, unions, and civil organizations who work together to address public issues that affect the well being of families and neighborhoods in our
community.
https://www.austininterfaith.org
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Central Texas Interfaith Opposes NXP $2.6 Billion Expansion

[Excerpt]

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 JobsAustin American Statesman [pdf]

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CTI-Huston Tillotson Partnership Results in Historic HBCU Conference

[Excerpt]

[With support from Central Texas Interfaith], Texas students and campus leaders held the state’s first Texas Historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference in Austin over the weekend to discuss the need for increased investments in HBCUs.

The event, held at Huston-Tillotson University, featured speeches from campus leaders, a conversation with state lawmakers who represent HBCUs in their districts and a roundtable discussion with students who spoke about the experience and challenges of attending HBCUs....

Jeffrey Clemmons, a Huston-Tillotson alumnus, who graduated in 2021, said there has been a “funding inequity from day one” between money for HBCUs and the flagship state university systems. In addition to addressing inequities, he said one of the conference's goals is to develop a coalition of HBCUs that can address shared issues in the future.

“Prior to this moment, as far as we could tell, while there were informal channels, there was never a unified conference of HBCUs,” Clemmons said. “We were never able to come together in a unified fashion and advocate for issues, and so I certainly hope that the one thing that comes out of this is that we will no longer be strangers to one another and we will be united”

[In left photos, Huston-Tillotson students engage state legislators.  In right photo Huston-Tillotson University  professors and CTI Lead Organizer Doug Greco discuss the development of public leadership.  Credit: Aaron E.  Martinez, American-Statesman]

Texas HBCUs Hold Statewide Conference at Huston-Tillotson to Address Funding Inequities, Austin American Statesman [pdf

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CTI and Texas IAF Leaders Impede Plans to Conceal Chapter 313 Data

Following an opposition campaign by Texas IAF organizations, Comptroller Glenn Hegar is backing away from his proposal to gut Chapter 313 reporting and accountability requirements in the program’s final year of existence. Hegar signaled the change Friday after significant pushback by Chapter 313 critics, including a press conference held by Texas IAF organizations in December, and a barrage of public comments submitted to his office against the proposal, with the largest portion coming from Texas IAF leaders.

During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Texas IAF, along with allies, stopped the reauthorization of Chapter 313, the State’s largest corporate tax subsidy program. Though the current program, which costs taxpayers $1-2 Billion per year, is set to expire in December of 2022, Comptroller Hegar had proposed in November to reduce the reporting requirements on jobs, wages, and overall costs to taxpayers.

“Comptroller Hegar has recognized the voices of voters from across the political spectrum, including our organizations, and now says the data we are concerned will continue to be available,” said Bob Fleming, a leader with The Metropolitan Organization, the IAF affiliate in Houston. “However, we remain vigilant because he says the rules will still be revised and made ‘more efficient’. Given the history of this failed and discontinued program, we need even more transparency and accountability, not less.”

 

[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle]

After Backlash, Texas Comptroller Abandons Plan to Hide Details of Controversial Tax Break ProgramHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Network of Texas IAF Organizations, Press Release

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