• October 15, 2019

Seliger talks state budget, mass violence - Odessa American: News

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Seliger talks state budget, mass violence

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Posted: Monday, October 7, 2019 6:25 pm

State Sen. Kel Seliger reviewed the state budget, with its education features, and discussed the upcoming Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety meeting during a town hall gathering Monday.

The gathering was held at the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute Presidential Archives and Leadership Library.

“We passed the largest budget in the history of the state of Texas,” Seliger, a Republican from Amarillo, said.

It was $250 billion, up from $217 billion the previous time. “You can’t call an increase conservative, but you can call it practical. The money was there, by whatever device it came in, primarily sales tax. I have a problem with raising tax money you don’t spend for the benefit of the people. We did that,” Seliger said.

There are some areas that included increased funding for public schools.

He said lawmakers included $4.5 billion additional dollars for public schools; $2 billion for teacher pay raises; and $5.1 billion for property tax relief; $4.6 billion went to reduce recapture (Robin Hood).

“One of the things I’m going to be most interested in is when we talk $5.1 billion for property tax relief that is property tax reduction what did we really do? If you’re in an area with rapidly increasing property values, you can reduce it all you want, but did people really save money? And we’re going to see as the year goes on. There’s an awful lot of things that we needed money for and certainly public schools are part of those,” Seliger said.

“Most of that $4.5 billion for public schools went into basic allotment. That’s extremely important because that’s the money that goes to every school in the state of Texas, in 1,041 school districts, based upon average daily attendance. That’s the tide that raises all boats and whenever we see money going into public ed, I like to see it going into that basic allotment because all the schools benefit,” he added.

He said he’s always in favor of teacher pay raises. When legislators say teachers are going to get a $5,000 raise, there are going to be some that get less and Seliger said he’s opposed to that.

“If you tell people they’re going to get $5,000, give them $5,000. If you can give them $4,500, tell them. I think that was poorly done,” Seliger said.

Despite the reduction in recapture, Seliger said he doesn’t think people in Ector and Midland County and other counties where there are a lot of oil and gas reserves and industrial plants, he doesn’t think there will be any decline.

“I don’t think they’re going to see any reduction in Robin Hood and we need to address that. I think we should have addressed that before property tax reduction. What this session was about was really property tax reduction. My problem with things like that … is it undermines local control and it’s completely unnecessary and the reason is you want your property taxes lowered, lower them. Your city council … can lower property taxes by half, but they haven’t. When’s the last time someone ran for office in Ector County and said if I’m elected I will reduce the property taxes by half? Hasn’t happened yet. Why?

The reason is because if the people who are running for office aren’t just completely without sense, (they) realize the quality of city services would be horrible. And Odessa is a good example,” Seliger said.

He said Odessa can’t afford to spend any less on law enforcement, as recent events have shown.

The same is true of waste water and fresh water, Seliger said.

On the Aug. 31 mass shooting, Seliger said Odessa was distinct because of its demonstration of law enforcement cooperation and the mobility of the active shooter.

He said the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, Odessa Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, Midland Police Department and others worked together “like they were wearing the same badge.”

“It was really something to see. People around the country will study that and say how do we coordinate? How do we look at our communications systems and things like that to make sure everybody is on the same page at the same time?” Seliger said.

However, of all the active shooting events that you’ve seem, Seliger said this is the first one that he is aware of where the perpetrator was mobile.

“He was terrorizing two communities at the same time,” Seliger said. Seth Ator killed 7 and injured 25 on a wild shooting spree across Odessa on Aug. 31. Ator was killed by law enforcement near Cinergy Theater.

By the time police got a location for the shooter, he was gone. Seliger said he’s worried other criminals will try copying that.

The Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety The Committee is at 2 p.m. Oct. 17 in the auditorium at Deaderick Hall at Odessa College, 201 W. University Blvd.

‘I’m hoping people show up by the dozens and say here’s what we think the problem is and here’s what ought to work and here’s what absolutely will work,” Seliger said. “There’s going to be a big difference of opinion from the average citizen to law enforcement and people have got to listen. …”

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