In an era when the president of the United States routinely blasts the news media as purveyors of “fake news” in between his own whoppers, when more and more Americans retreat into echo chambers to avoid factual revelations that might upset their ideological apple carts, one might question whether newspaper editorials have a role today. Leave it to a Trib reader Saturday morning to cordially remind us when such editorials are most appreciated: When the state of Texas puts on the ballot another baffling array of constitutional amendment propositions.
And beginning with early voting on Monday, Texas voters face 10 more such propositions this election cycle.
So let’s start today with the most prominent of them: Proposition 4 on the Nov. 5 constitutional amendment ballot. It’s probably needless for us to comment, given it will pass. Yet this has all the earmarks of shameless political pandering, allowing the proposition’s many legislative authors and sponsors (including Republican state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson of Waco and Sen. Brian Birdwell of Granbury) to claim to gullible voters, “See? See? With your help, we are all making it next to impossible to ever have a personal income tax in Texas!”
Fact: It’s already next to impossible to ever have a personal income tax in Texas.
Democratic state Sen. Nathan Johnson is correct: Proposition 4 is the definition of “political stunt.” We suspect the proposition was crafted to boost certain political fortunes and allow voters to feel they along with their legislators are taking patriotic action and ensuring more industry and more residents will move to Texas (though in Trib interviews lately, some voters say they’re increasingly wary of outsiders moving to Texas).
More facts? To legally establish a personal income tax in Texas at present, voters statewide would have to approve it — and only after both chambers of the Texas Legislature by majority votes approve placing it on the ballot. What this proposed amendment would do is require two-thirds support in each legislative chamber before ratification through a vote of the people. So, in that sense, yes, it makes putting the matter before voters harder, which means it would be harder to establish a personal income tax.
The fly in the ointment? For the past few sessions, conservative lawmakers have discussed completely jettisoning property taxes dedicated to the daily operation and maintenance of public schools. To make up this revenue, the state has two main options: Raise the sales tax (to as much as 12 or 13 percent, by one accounting) or implement a personal income tax. So if you hate property taxes and think they’re unfair, it seems you’d want to keep your options open and your powder dry for ways to eliminate or reduce it. This amendment would make at least one option harder to consider.
And while many of us balk at a state income tax, subsequent generations may well feel differently, both about public education and how to fund it. We believe impediments to a state income tax are strong enough without engaging in a self-serving political stunt to make it even harder. Then again, pure logic falters amid immediate gratification and political myopia. This will pass handily.