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Texas Tax Amendments on Nov. 5 Ballot

by David Poer, Dallas, October 2019

 

Ten proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution will be decided in this year’s general election. Propositions 3 and 4 pertain to taxes.

 

The following comments supporting or opposing the proposed constitutional amendments reflect positions that were presented in committee proceedings, during house or senate floor debate, or in the analysis of the resolution prepared by the House Research Organization.

 

Proposition 3 (H.J.R. 34)

 

Proposition 3 authorizes the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.

 

Comments by Supporters:

  • Providing a temporary tax exemption for property damaged by a disaster is a cheaper, simpler, and more easily administrable method of providing property tax relief to those suffering the aftereffects of a disaster than the current method of reappraisal.

  • A tax exemption will provide property tax relief in a more expeditious manner than reappraisal of the property.

  • The current method of reappraisal is optional. The proposed tax exemption will provide tax relief that homeowners and businesses can count on and will afford those suffering after a disaster much-needed peace of mind.

Comments by Opponents:

  • Introducing yet another property tax exemption into state law could end up depriving local governments of adequate levels of funding.

  • Amending the constitution to provide for a tax exemption for damaged property is unnecessary, as the existing method of reappraisal of damaged property following a disaster provides a sufficient mechanism to address the need of disaster victims for temporary property tax relief.

 

Proposition 4 (H.J.R. 38)

 

A constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.

 

Comments by Supporters

  • Many voters believe that the Texas Constitution already prohibits a state personal income tax, but the constitution only imposes certain restrictions, including voter approval, on any potential personal income tax. H.J.R. 38 would provide a clear prohibition.

  • The absence of a state personal income tax is part of the business-friendly climate that attracts people and businesses to Texas and is a contributing factor to the state’s recent economic success.

  • The experience of other states suggests that a personal income tax tends to hinder economic development, wage growth, and prosperity while creating a large governmental bureaucracy to administer the tax.

  • H.J.R. 38 would make it more difficult to impose a state personal income tax in the future because a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the legislature is required to amend the constitution.

Comments by Opponents

  • Constitutionally prohibiting a state personal income tax would unnecessarily block a future revenue option that is less regressive than current taxes. Revenue from a personal income tax could be used to help alleviate the state’s property tax and school finance problems and could reduce the tax burden on Texas businesses.

  • The existing constitutional restrictions, including voter approval, already make it difficult to impose a personal income tax. Those restrictions combined with the standard legislative process provide an adequate safeguard against a potential tax that is not supported by Texas voters.

  • The proposed amendment’s reference to a tax on “individuals” rather than on “natural persons” could have unintended consequences by being interpreted to limit the application of the state franchise tax to certain business entities.

To learn more about all of the proposed amendments on the ballot, click here.