The last time I checked, Texas was one of only nine states without a personal income tax, and it is not likely that Texas will enact one during the lifetimes of anyone reading this item because the political opposition is great. But that hasn’t stopped Gov. Greg Abbott from tryng to make the specter of an income tax an issue in his reelection campaign.
When you run out of good ideas, you start making things up, anything to throw red meat to voters who buy Abbott’s myth that public education and other critical services shouldn’t cost a lot of money.
In 1993, the Legislature and Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment to ban a state income tax unless it were approved by a majority of voters in a statewide election. That was 25 years ago, and few elected officials have seriously suggested an income tax since.
The 1993 amendment also provides that should budgetary conditions ever become so dire that voters think an income tax is necessary, then revenue generated by an income tax must be spent to support education. It could even be used to lower school property taxes, which have continued to rise during Abbott’s administration. But Abbott doesn’t like that provision and would wipe it out.
At present, though, an income tax remains a non-issue. Abbott is attacking it simply because it is easier than addressing current, more-important issues the governor should be making a priority. Issues such as figuring out a way to adequately pay for public schools, universities or highways. Issues such as providing affordable health care for educators or a way to actually pay for that fictional “six-figure” teacher salary the governor has been dangling in the headlines.
The 1993 amendment to ban an income tax without voter approval was proposed and promoted by the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, a Democrat who only two years earlier had tried to enact an income tax and failed.
Bullock said an income tax was the only way to fairly and adequately pay for public schools and other state needs. He also proposed making local school property taxes deductible from the income tax, and he recommended repeal of the franchise tax, which then was the state’s main business tax.
But he received no support from then-Gov. Ann Richards, a fellow Democrat, and the Legislature,which had a Democratic majority in those days. So, two years later, Bullock trotted out his amendment that effectively removed a personal income tax from political consideration for decades to come. I have always believed that Bullock reversed course because he was up for reelection in 1994 and wanted to repair any political damage he may have suffered with Texas voters over the unpopular issue.
Now, Abbott is playing politics with it.