Schools, not gun makers, need tax dollars

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On March 27, state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, filed SB 1467, a bill formally establishing economic and tax incentives to American gun manufacturers, in an attempt to encourage them to move their operations to Texas. “Gun manufacturers and people in that industry have been under attack by states who are threatening their Second Amendment rights,” said Estes, according to The Texas Tribune. “We want them to realize that Texas is open for business and Texas is a gun-friendly state.”

This follows weeks of letter-writing and lobbying by prominent Texas conservatives, like Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. The campaign has focused particularly on states that have enacted restrictive gun control policies. In that sense it mirrors Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s belligerent advertising campaign earlier this year encouraging gun-owning New Yorkers to move to Texas. The difference between then and now is that Abbott paid for the ads with his own campaign money.

We’re happy to solicit greater economic investment in Texas, but these initiatives are indicative of political grandstanding rather than good economic policy. In a Senate Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, pointed out that Este’s proposed tax breaks would cost the state $37.7 billion in lost revenue. Of that, $6.2 billion, Uresti said, would come at the expense of already-strapped Texas school districts. Another potential problem is the fact that if President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats succeed in passing an assault weapons ban, Texas will have spent billions propping up an industry that will suddenly find itself cut off at the knees.

However, like the budget proposal, Uresti’s sole “no” vote failed to keep Estes’ bill from passing committee and going to the Senate floor.

If Perry, Estes and other Republican leaders want to score political points by cozying up to gun manufacturers, they certainly have that right, but they shouldn’t do it with our money. Texas schools need it far more.