TCR Comment: The Governor and Task Force members should be congratulated for taking the time to develop and plan to control runaway homeowner's property appraisals. TCR hopes the Task Force recommends and the legislature pass along the lines we suggest.
"We must have local voter control over increased spending and/or increased appraised values. So how do we do it? TCR's suggestion - the voters elect two members of the Appraisal District Board and that the elected tax assessor also be on the board along with two members appointed by local taxing authorities. This makes sense.
The voters should have the opportunity in Voter Ratification Elections to approve or disapprove spending increases that exceed CPI and population growth. This is so significant stealth tax increases do not take place on autopilot.
The appraisal cap should be lowered on residential homesteads to 3% or less and for all other property, 5% or less. The reason is we cannot continue to take people out of their homes and businesses and if local governments want to raise taxes they can ask voters to increase the tax rate. Property should be re-appraised every three years, 1/3 of the base each year to control increases and reduce appraisal board expenses and bureaucracy.
To avoid the problems of bad information on property sales, we need to require sales price disclosure. We need to take a hard look at how property tax exemptions are handled. Many are claimed when not appropriate, like abuse of agriculture exemptions by "weekend" farmers. We need to raise the homestead exemption and one place to get the funds is the idea of a local option ½% sales tax dedicated to residential property tax relief.
In Texas, appraisal increases for many homeowners exceeds their increase in wages. With some of the highest property taxes in America, it is time Texas took action."
Return The Surplus - Will Texas Republicans Learn From What Doomed Their Party Nationally?
By Michael Quinn Sullivan, Contributing Editor
When state lawmakers convene this January, they are expected to see $15 billion in surplus revenues - the largest surplus in state history. That surplus represents $15 billion taken from taxpayers over and above what has been needed to operate state government.
That's a big pile of money. And it's yours. The responsible thing, of course, would be to return it to the taxpayers. But will fiscally prudent lawmakers have the strength to do it?
The Republican chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Waxahachie's Jim Pitts, recently said that new spending demands could wipe out the surplus. He had previously told the Associated Press that there "could be a requirement that we leave $3 to $5 billion on the table" instead of spending it on the various programs and baubles big-government advocates prefer.
The "requirement" is a 1978 constitutional amendment designed to limit the growth of government. It hasn't really been much of limit - the current budget was an 18.7 percent increase over the previous one - but it is enough of one that some folks see a big pile of cash of worry they wont be able to spend every penny of it, and then some. (Given a quirk in the law, even tax relief must be counted as spending.)
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Republican Steve Ogden of Bryan, has told reporters that "it's a perfectly legitimate exercise to set a spending limit and vote to exceed it." He later noted, as has House Speaker Tom Craddick, that tax relief is the only legitimate reason to exceed the limit and use the surplus.
Given that congressional Republicans were driven from power in large part due to excessive federal spending could Texas' Republican majority be similarly in danger if these men and their colleagues are unable to hold the line of budget increases?
State Representative Warren Chisum, a Republican from Pampa, thinks so. "If we're going to be conservatives we've got to… not just keep spending money. If we don't, we'll suffer the same fate they did in Washington, D.C. We'll be out on the streets."
How much tax relief would the surplus provide? Let's set aside $6 billion of it, which was spoken for in the form of education spending and property tax relief during last spring's special session. That leaves close to $9 billion in surplus funds - a very big pile of money, indeed.
For the sake of argument, focus on property taxes. Each year property taxes generate just over $1 billion for every 10 cents of tax rate. Using the surplus only for property tax relief, the school M&O tax could be reduced 25 or more cents overnight, for a two-year period. That's significant. We could also change the new, but not yet implemented, business tax; a tax which even proponents of acknowledge was enacted as only the best-worst option, designed to give lawmakers quick spending flexibility, even though such taxes hurt an economy in the long-run.
The retort from the no-tax relief crowd is simple and true: using the surplus for tax relief commits lawmakers spend the surplus on boondoggles, new and old, similarly commits taxpayers to an ongoing program of spending.
Economic projections suggest that revenues may not keep up with spending. This means if they spend more now, we'll be committed to tax increases in the future. On the other hand, government austerity today will protect the economy of tomorrow.
Regardless of the economy, there are precious few more important services lawmakers can perform that reducing tax burdens. Letting Texans keep their money must be a moral imperative for this legislature. History, not theory, clearly demonstrates that tax cuts stimulate the economy for everyone, while government spending suppresses it.
The question is simple: do we want lawmakers committed to providing for tax relief or bigger government?
Mr. Pitts, Mr. Ogden and their colleagues in the House and Senate will hear every minute of every day from small but vocal interests who believe government programs deserve that money more than you. Lawmakers will be given countless excuses as to why the surplus should be spent rather than returned.
Legislators need to hear loudly and clearly from Texans who simply want their money back. The surplus should be used for tax relief; that big pile of money is ours.
Michael Quinn Sullivan is president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, a non-profit organization based in Austin. He can be contacted at: Email.
A Bad Year Gets Worse For Texas Republicans
Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, they did. Congressman Henry Bonilla's 8-point loss to liberal Ciro Rodriguez, after coming so close to winning with 49% of the vote only a few weeks ago. This tells TCR the GOP slide has not ended.
What caused the loss? Well, since the election, President Bush's numbers have dropped considerably, the Iraq war is still a muddle and the Baker Commission report raised more questions than answers. It all points to the fact the GOP has not hit bottom yet.
TCR says its time to get back to basics - control spending, a strong defense, family values and lower taxes for working Americans. Remember Ronald Reagan, we need to rediscover his legacy.
Has The Governor Changed On Border Control?
While Bonilla was going down, Governor Perry has appeared to back away from his enforcement policy on illegal immigration which has caused concern among conservatives and raises the old bugaboo that we elect people who we can't trust.
TCR suggests that the governor should clarify his position or risk losing his friends. TCR is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. You can have an immigration policy that controls the border and treats our law-abiding guests in America in a respectful and dignified manner.
New Poll Demonstrates GOP Problems In 2006
A recently completed poll by OnMessage Inc. lays bare why we lost this year. The sample size was 1200 likely voters in swing districts.
The conclusions were eye opening!
- "If the war in Iraq was brought to a successful and triumphal conclusion tomorrow, the Republican brand would still be in trouble. Instead, Republicans should look at a problem on the macro level, realize the judgment of the voters, and take corrective steps to address the realities in public opinion."
- "Republicans have completely abdicated our advantage on fiscal issues."
- "Voters trust Democrats more on fiscal issues - cutting taxes, controlling spending, reducing the deficit. This may have happened sometime before in modern history, but we are too young to remember it. When asked which Party they believe would cut taxes middle-class 42% said the Democrats while only 29% chose the Republicans. When asked which Party will work toward reducing the deficit 47% chose the Democrats while only 22% chose the Republicans. Again, when asked who will keep government spending under control the Democrats held a 17 point edge (38% Democrats, 21% Republicans)."
- "Voters see Republicans as too close to corporate interests and D.C. corruption."
- "Voters see the typical Republican definition of a thriving economy as being at odds with their own economic reality. No amount of economists talking on cable news about the great condition of the American economy can change the voters' view of the problems they face. The only economic condition swing voters care about is the condition they find at their own kitchen table - and any effort by Republicans inside or outside the administration to frame the economy by any other metric is a significant mistake."
- "Voters are unhappy with the job performance of Congress and a majority of Republican voters are less than satisfied wit the job performance of the President or the Republican Congress."
RETURNING - (Friday, January 12, 2007 at 8 pm) to Channel 8 PBS in Houston, Texas - The Connection - Red, White & Blue, featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal commentator David Jones. The leading bi-weekly public affairs television show on the Gulf Coast with outstanding and important guests.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who recently completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his tenth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last five years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.