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]
"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."
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
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.
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.”
NXP Seeking Up To $140 Million in Tax Breaks for School Districts, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Chapter 313 Incentives: What They Are and Why They're Suddenly the Talk of the Town, Austin 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 Expansion, Austin Chronicle [pdf]
AISD Board Meeting Broadcast, Austin Independent School District [calls begin at -2:33:30, in-person testimony at -1:52:30]
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 Realities” document on NXP’s request for a Chapter 313 giveaway.
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 Jobs, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
[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]
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]
Network of Texas IAF Organizations, Press Release
Texas IAF Calls On State Comptroller to Abandon Plan to Gut Chapter 313 Subsidy Accountability Requirements
"Lawmakers have ordered Comptroller Glenn Hegar to wrap up Texas’s biggest corporate tax break program, but he wants to give companies one last gift: an end to public accountability.
Activists, corporate relocation specialists and lawmakers are scrambling to comment on Hegar’s proposal that companies no longer report key data about their progress toward meeting the terms of their property tax abatement agreements.
Interfaith groups that fought the corporate giveaway that hurts Texas children demanded Hegar roll back his plan on Wednesday.
“What is the benefit of less accountability and less transparency?” San Antonio state Senator José Menéndez asked at a Texas Industrial Areas Foundation press conference. “The taxpayer should know how their money is going to be used and what they are getting in exchange.”
[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, San Antonio Express News]
Texas Comptroller Proposes Covering Up Corporate Welfare Program, The Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Taylor: The Chapter 313 Monster — the Mother of All Corporate Welfare — Revives?, San Antonio Express News [pdf]
At Urging of CTI, Travis County & City of Austin Invest $200+ Million into Homelessness Prevention & Support
After years of working to protect the dignity of people experiencing homelessness and preventing low-income families from displacement, Central Texas Interfaith leaders celebrated the investment of $220+ Million in federal funding into homelessness prevention and support. Over 100 CTI leaders were joined by City of Austin Mayor and Travis County Judge Andy Brown who expressed appreciation for the organization's partnership and doggedness in addressing key regional challenges. Leaders relayed how this effort was connected to a multi-year effort that resulted in passage of an affordable housing bond in 2018, $40 Million in rental assistance during the first year of the pandemic, and now over $217 million in federal dollars into homelessness prevention and support.
Elected officials further committed to identifying sources for additional rental assistance as eviction moratoriums lift.
Homeless Housing Plans, Spectrum News
Interfaith Group Calls for Immediate Action on Homelessness, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Press Conference Footage, Central Texas Interfaith