(TNS) — Texans, who already don’t pay a statewide income tax, voted Tuesday to make it even more difficult for state leaders to ever impose the tax on them in the future.
The constitutional ban passed overwhelmingly, with Gov. Greg Abbott issuing a statement in praise of the vote.
“Today’s passage of Prop 4 is a victory for taxpayers across the Lone Star State," Abbott said in a statement. "I am grateful to Rep. Jeff Leach for his bold leadership on this issue, and for the overwhelming majority of Texans who voted to ensure that our great state will always be free of a state income tax. This ban on such a disastrous tax will keep our economy prosperous, protect taxpayers, and ensure that Texas remains the best state to live, work, and raise a family.”
Voters also approved eight of nine other constitutional amendments, ranging from a measure that will increase school funding allocations to another that will allow law enforcement dogs and horses to be adopted by their handlers.
The approved constitutional amendments will go into effect once the unofficial results are confirmed by the secretary of state.
Prohibiting A State Income Tax
Texas is one of seven states without an income tax. The state and its local governments derive most of their revenue to fund services like health care and education from sales taxes and property taxes. Republican leaders in Texas have historically touted the lack of an income tax as a conservative bona fide and part of a key attraction for businesses.
Leach, R-Plano, authored the legislation for Proposition 4 to ensure the state income tax stays off the table in Texas.
With its passage, two-thirds of the Texas House and Senate will be required to vote to repeal the amendment and call a statewide election to establish an income tax.
Leach has said his proposition makes a state income tax “virtually impossible,” keeping Texas friendly for businesses and residents.
“The enactment of Proposition 4 is a monumental victory for the Texans of today and for future Texans of tomorrow,” Leach said. “Tonight we heard loud and clear from Texans that they know how to spend, save and steward their money far better than any politician in Austin. Because of their voices and their votes, every Texan can rest easy knowing that our Constitution now ensures their hard-earned paychecks are protected from a future state income tax.”
The proposition replaces the “Bob Bullock” amendment, which allowed the Legislature to impose a personal income tax only if voters approved it in a statewide referendum and if the new revenue funded school property tax cuts and education programs. That previous amendment had been in place since 1993, when voters approved the proposition pushed by then-Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, a Democrat.
But the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the Texas State Teachers Association have said the proposition eliminates a potential source of revenue for public education funding and property tax relief, which were priorities during the last legislative session.
“Texas is growing rapidly, and we need ways to meet our growing educational, health care and transportation needs,” said Ann Beeson, CEO of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “Proposition 4 was completely unnecessary, but more lawmakers wanted to score political points by putting this in front of voters rather than make serious decisions about funding our future."
The proposition also faced pushback in the Legislature, where it was narrowly approved. Before the measure was placed on the ballot, it required two-thirds passage from the House and the Senate this summer.
Dallas Sens. Royce West and Nathan Johnson tried to preserve language that the income tax ban would apply to “natural persons” and not “individuals.” They cautioned that using “individual” could exempt corporations. Their effort failed, but the Legislature did amend the tax code to define an “individual” as a “natural person."
The Rest Of The Ballot
Among the other nine propositions, only Proposition 1 failed Tuesday night. The measure would have allowed voters to elect municipal judges to serve in multiple cities at the same time. The 95% of municipal judges in Texas who are appointed by city councils are already allowed to serve in more than one office.
Here are the rest of the propositions that passed:
Proposition 2 would allow the Texas Water Development Board to issue additional bonds, which would not be allowed to exceed $200 million, to fund water supply and sewer service projects in areas where the median household income falls below 75% of the state median income level.
Proposition 3 would temporarily exempt property owners in a governor-declared disaster area from a portion of the taxes for the property’s appraised value.
Proposition 5 ensures that all revenue from state sales taxes imposed on sporting goods goes to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to maintain the state’s parks and historical sites.
Proposition 6 would allow the Legislature to increase from $3 billion to $6 billion the amount of taxpayer-backed bonds the state issues for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. The agency, established in 2007, would otherwise lose its ability to award grants that promote cancer prevention and research by 2022.
Proposition 7 would double the annual public education funding awarded to the Available School Fund. The General Land Office can currently distribute $300 million to the fund per year, which gives schools funding for each student and textbooks.
Proposition 8 would create a Flood Infrastructure Fund in the state treasury for the Texas Water Development Board to pay for drainage, flood mitigation and flood control projects.
Proposition 9 would exempt precious metals from ad valorem taxes if they are held in a Texas depository.
Proposition 10 was garnering the largest approval vote of the night. The amendment would ensure that retiring law enforcement animals, such as dogs and horses, can go to their handlers or qualified caretakers without having to be auctioned off.
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