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Crack Team to propose new blanket tax system

By Isabella Zevallos     12/3/14 7:19am

The Rice University Student Association’s legislation to create the Blanket Tax Crack Team was passed at SA Senate on Nov. 12. The new team is now looking to review processes that involve the current blanket tax system and to propose a better model for the system as a whole, according to team chair Nick Cornell.

Cornell, president of Sid Richardson College, said the BTCT is an extension of the Blanket Tax Pod, a committee formed by the SA earlier this year to look into the blanket tax system. Cornell said an evaluation of the system as a whole was overdue, and the issue was separate from the controversies involving Honor Council.

“The motivation for having a pod consider [the blanket tax] had little to do with Honor Council,” Cornell, a junior, said. “The general intuition was that what we’ve always done for the blanket tax may no longer meet the needs of students. We tried to keep our discussion at a higher level than a knee jerk response to recent events.”

Cornell said the BTCT is composed of people familiar with the blanket tax system who can provide leadership and knowledge. The team is thus composed of University Court Chair Brian Baran, Thresher Editor-in-Chief Miles Kruppa, SA Treasurer Joan Liu, SA Parliamentarian Zach Birenbaum and current at-large Blanket Tax Standing Committee member Giray Ozseker.

According to the SA Senate Bill #5, the BTCT has three key goals: to examine current processes and propose new mechanisms; to outreach stakeholders in the process; and to present new text to be proposed as constitutional during the 2015 spring general elections.

Cornell said the BTCT first met Thursday, Nov. 20, but the pod had already proposed a new model to the SA. Cornell said the model and alternatives had not yet been fully fleshed out because blanket tax is such a comprehensive and complex process.

“Our work is much bigger than any one blanket tax process,” Cornell said. “We’re trying to consider the entire system from multiple perspectives. This means taking into consideration how organizations can get blanket tax funding, how and whether we should distinguish different types of investment and spending, how blanket tax funding can reflect student priorities, how to make sure organizations have predictable cash flows, etc.”

During the recent SA Senate meeting, the BTCT gave key questions they will seek to explore:

How can aggregate blanket tax revenues be regularly reviewed and realigned with student priorities?

How can the standard review move immediate action on an organization due to technical violations or failure to use funds in line with the organization’s meeting?

Can different types of expenditures be considered at the campus-wide level when distributing funds to normalize these differences in organizations’ financial plans?

Cornell said he predicts that the BTCT will have drafted models to share with the SA by the end of the semester, and they will begin with comprehensive outreach next semester. 

“This is going to be a crucial process, as we want both students and organizations to be better served, on average, by a new model,” Cornell said. “The end goal is to have amendments that propose our final recommendation in time for elections.”

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