Re-evaluate Texas tax laws

Lilian Honorato

 

The results of a poll on how Texas voters feel about certain economic issues that the state faces were released to the public last month.

The survey, conducted between Feb. 11 and 17 by UT and The Texas Tribune, included 800 registered voters. The results showed that most of those polled strongly oppose raising taxes yet also oppose cutting spending on most of the items that are already on lawmakers’ list, such as education, health care, criminal justice and environmental regulation.

The findings do not seem to make sense.

First, if Texas is facing a $27 million budget shortfall, cutting spending is necessary. If people do not agree where those cuts are being made, which is absolutely understandable, then they should at least consider the possibility of raising taxes. Something has to give.
However, 94 percent of those polled oppose implementing a state income tax. Eighty-six percent oppose increasing the sales tax. Eighty percent opposed a fuel inefficiency surcharge on certain new vehicles. And the list goes on.

While it is understandable for people to resist surrendering certain privileges, they may want to reconsider what’s at stake here ­— poor public education, less access to higher education, insufficient health care, criminal justice chaos and in general, a more toxic environment. All of this could be avoided if Texans were more willing to contribute more in taxes. It is our duty to protect what we care about most, especially during these hard economic times. We must do our part.

According to the poll, voters were more concerned about Texas’ immigration and border security ­­­— their two top concerns — than unemployment and the state budget shortfall, No. 3 and No. 4 on the list of concerns, respectively.

With the major economic issues the state is facing, all of which threaten the value of our future, immigration and border security should not be the No. 1 priority.

Of the nine options given, the only methods for increasing revenue that received a majority of votes were legalizing gambling and imposing taxes on casinos, with 61 percent of the vote, and increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages, with 52 percent of the vote.
Furthermore, 55 percent of voters agreed that spending some, but not all, of the state’s $9.4 billion Rainy Day Fund was acceptable. Though this may be the only option that presents a possible solution to fixing the state’s budget problem, Gov. Rick Perry continues to refuse to tap into the fund.

Texas is one of seven states without an individual income tax. According to a report last year from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Texas ranks 44th in the nation for tax burden on income and 45th for government spending per capita. But at a time of financial crisis, perhaps it is time to reconsider Texas’ political culture, which texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu, a website on Texas politics, describes as “a ‘low taxes, low services’ approach to government.”

Perhaps this is the reason why Texas has historically ranked low on lists such as quality of education and quality of health care. Raising taxes would not only stimulate the economy but it would also ensure that all Texans have a higher standard of living by providing better social services, especially those that are basic human rights.

As we all know — and whether Gov. Perry wants to admit it or not — Texas is currently suffering from severe economic woes. The threats we face are endangering the quality of our future. We cannot continue to live in a bubble and expect things to magically improve when we do not want to pitch in a little bit ourselves. Times are hard and the decisions we face are not simple ones. But we must think about the consequences of what not contributing to a solution would look like for the future of the state of Texas. It is time to re-evaluate our stance on Texas’ tax laws.