It is nearly time for the 85th Texas Legislature to begin the five-month journey to a quality budget that meets both the needs of Texans and their taste for ever-lower taxes.
Some want a balance, and some want to sell out programs, education and infrastructure obligations to save a few dollars. All have their own way of making the sales pitch.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick leads the charge on the side of crying wolf when it comes to what is characterized as a crippling tax burden. He fired one of the first rounds in this battle of words last week when he issued a statement in support of Senate Bill 2, the Property Tax Reform & Relief Act of 2017.
The bill targets more reductions in property taxes, something Patrick says is an unfair levy on homeowners across the state.
“Texans pay the sixth-highest property tax in the nation and Texans have told us loud and clear that common-sense property tax reform legislation is long overdue,” Patrick said.
But Patrick only tells part of the story when he tosses out statistics regarding taxes.
It is a fact, Texas property owners pay the sixth-highest property tax in the United States. But always conveniently left out of the conversation is that Texas is one of seven states without a state income tax.
When Texans step back from the microscope focused solely on property taxes, the tax burden across the state looks a lot different when compared to the other states.
Once all state and local taxes are included – school, municipal, county and state – the state ranks 42nd in per capita tax burden at $2,050 annually.
Yes, these numbers are all different, taken from varying perspectives, but isn’t the discussion about what it costs to run the state? Legislators can pull tax figures from anywhere, leaving out key details where it is convenient, but in the end, only eight states pay less in taxes per person than Texas. Isn’t it about taxes paid, regardless of how or for what?
There has been no sign Texans want a lesser education for their children, or the poor quality of care for children in our foster care system to continue. Texans want roads, clean water, parks and libraries. These are issues also left out of the tax conversation.
Fast food restaurants don’t offer a burger and fries without a hand out for payment. Those two things go together.
Talking about reducing taxes without talking about what Texans are prepared to go without is no different. And talking about the overwhelming burden of property taxes in Texas compared to other places is dishonest without looking at the big picture of comparative taxation as a whole.