Over the last few weeks the emerging Harris County Judge primary contest between current Judge Ed Emmett & challenger, former Harris County District Clerk Charles Bacarisse, has erupted over the property tax issue.
Judge Emmett, as one vote on the five member Commissioners Court, proposed and has now passed a 1-cent reduction in the property tax rate. Bacarisse is proposing a 5-cent rate cut that according to reliable sources can't pass the Commissioners Court.
Harris County's preeminent tax expert, Paul Bettencourt, explains the situation: the competing proposal, if it could pass, sounds good but Bettencourt thinks it's too high given the absolute requirements of county government and does not support it.
So whom should conservatives trust? Clearly the most principled countywide official in regards to tax cuts is Bettencourt. Charles Bacarisse, in his past years as an elected official had been quiet on tax reductions and to be fair it is not in a District Clerk's job description to deal with that issue. His current vocal support for tax cuts is welcomed. Judge Emmett, in his prior career as a legislator was a hawk on spending and tax cuts, but he has been out of the public eye for years. As County Judge, he has delighted conservatives with his fight to quit the Texas Association of Counties, fought to lower the 2007 Harris County bond issue so no tax increase would be required and he supports a 5% cap on residential property tax appraisals, all good things.
TCR believes the battling proposals are of course, political. An interesting question: if Judge Emmett didn't need three votes and was in the private sector, how big a tax cut balloon would he float?
TCR Comment: A tax cut proposal is only good if it passes.
TCR On Texas' Constitutional Amendments
The state of Texas this year has lots of amendments to consider. TCR looks at them through a conservative, small government, lower taxes lens.
- Angelo State University to change its university systems affiliation. No one has said really why and why it is in the constitution? Suggestion: if they want to move, it's okay with us.
- Student Loan Bonds, traditionally they pay for themselves. Suggestion: Yes.
- Limiting property appraisals increases to no more than 10% a year. Suggestion: Yes or you could go up 30% if your country re-appraises every three years!
- A catch-all bond issue for $1 billion. State bond issues bind future legislators on spending priorities. Suggestion: No.
- Allow voters in small towns to freeze property taxes around downtown revitalization areas. TCR opposes picking winners and losers regarding property taxes; that's why most of our taxes keep going up. Suggestion: No.
- No taxation on one car used in business. See number 5. Suggestion: No.
- Allow property acquired via eminent domain to be sold back to owner at original price. Suggestion: Yes, we are pro-property rights.
- Home equity cleanup. Suggestion: Yes
- Additional disabled veterans homestead property tax breaks. See number 5. Suggestion: No.
- To eliminate the office of Inspector of Hides and Animals. Suggestion: Yes.
- Requires record vote by legislature on all final votes. Suggestion: Yes, a good start, but we need record votes for all votes.
- Up to $5 billion in bonds to the Texas Department of Transportation for transportation improvements.
TCR Comment: Since the Trans Texas corridor issue is not resolved plus the problems the Texas Department of Transportation has had being responsive to the legislature, it's not the time to give them more money though the case can be made for more spending here. This whole transportation issue needs to be a top issue for the next legislative session.
- More discretion for judges regarding bail. Suggestion: Yes
- Allow a judge to sit until the end of their term even if they reach age 75. Suggestion: Yes, we are all working to an older age, why not judges?
- $3 billion (an estimated $4.6 billion with interest) for cancer research. TCR Comment: Clearly in a budget north of $150 billion, the state can afford $300 million per biennium for this, so why not take it out of the normal budget? Borrowing money costs us interest which means future legislators spending choices would be limited. So TCR suggests, you decide, but wonders where was the above discussion in Austin?
- Bonds up to $250 million to assist water projects in distressed areas in South Texas. See number 15 comments. Suggestion: No
Generally speaking, we need to limit debt and bond issues and reduce government expansion. Maybe the next legislature will focus on it.
Housing Showdown: Does That Mean Higher Property Tax Rates In Your Future?
Maybe we at TCR are confused, but haven't property appraisals been rising at over 8% per year over the last decade in urban Texas? Doesn't that mean that when appraisals rise, those taxes you pay go up?
So why would Chicago Mayor Richard Daley say last week that the property tax rate needs to rise by 15%, while implying this was the first increase in years.
Don't be fooled, taxes have been going up yearly. But here is the real question: why shouldn't government go on a diet like families do when the economy slows down?
Will The November U.S. Sponsored
Mideast Conference Bring Peace?
The Annapolis Peace conference to bring about peace between Arabs & Israelis is a lot like fools gold. Anyone trained in negotiations knows it takes two motivated parties. Israel certainly seems ready, but the Palestinians are divided by two factions. Hamas, the equivalent of the Taliban and the Iranian National Guard and the other, Fatah, who talk out of both sides of their mouth and still have ten non-starter articles in the Palestinian Fatah Constitution:
I. Article (22) Opposing any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine
II. Article (12) Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of the Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence
III. Article (19) Armed struggle is a struggle and not a tactic, and the Palestinian Arab people's armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and the struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.
IV. Article (17) Armed public revolution is the inevitable method to liberating Palestine.
V. Article (23) maintaining relations with Arab countries… with the proviso that the armed struggle is not negatively affected.
VI. Article (8) The Israeli existence in Palestine is a Zionist invasion with a colonial expansive base, and it is a natural ally to colonialism and international imperialism.
VII. Article (7) The Zionist Movement is racial, colonial and aggressive in ideology, goals, organization and method.
VIII. Article (24) maintaining relations with all liberal forces supporting our just struggle in order to resist together Zionism and imperialism.
IX. Article (4) The Palestinian struggle is part and parcel of the worldwide struggle against Zionism, colonialism and international imperialism.
X. Article (25) Convincing concerned countries in the world to prevent Jewish immigration to Palestine as a method of solving the problem.
If they want peace they need to repeal the above provisions and fulfill commitments previously made in Oslo and in the road map deal including arresting terrorists, confiscating terrorist's weapons, and ending the incitement of hatred and murder in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps.
TCR Comment: Don't hold your breath.
COMING in November on Channel 8 PBS in Houston, Texas - The Connection - Red, White & Blue, featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal commentator David Jones with New York Times liberal columnist Paul Krugman.
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 six years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.