It's pretty much official - gambling is dead. Everyone knows the votes aren't there. And that new business payroll tax - dead, too. All of this pretty much guarantees that whatever eventually gets christened as The Bill won't do squat for schools and will inflict a thousand paper cuts on various subsets of the population.
So who's in the crosshairs now for new taxes? Well, there's snackers, for one.
[Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land] is proposing a 1 percent "snack tax" on beer, wine, soft drinks, chips and other snack foods in lieu of gambling. He said early estimates indicate it could raise $1 billion a year.
Texans would pay a $1 tax on most amusement events, whether it's a Dallas Cowboys game, a live music show or the ballet, under a provision tucked into the 370-page public school finance bill.
The bill, authored by Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, includes a $1 flat tax on professional sports events, amusement parks and any live concert, reading or play, including events by not-for-profit groups. Movie tickets were left out.
Only performances for public schools, colleges or charity events would be exempt. The extra buck would earn an estimated $47 million for public schools.
The prospect of a new $1 tax worries many involved in Texas performing arts.
Steve Wertheimer, owner of Austin's Continental Club, said that for a small venue, a $1 tax could amount to $500 to $700 per week, and club owners would have to decide whether it comes out of the public's, the club's or the musicians' pockets.
"It's hard enough to get people to pay five bucks to see six guys on stage trying to maintain their livelihood," Wertheimer said.
Welch said he doesn't think the $1 tax will hurt the club business.
Melissa Eddy, owner of Austin-based Pro Arts Management, offers services for small to midsize classical performing arts groups.
Eddy said that although paying a $1 tax might not add much to ticket prices, administering the tax could be difficult for volunteer and part-time staffs.
Philosophically, she added, the tax is wrong.
"It's sad enough that Texas state support for the arts is already so paltry," Eddy said. "To tax performances would add insult to injury."
All of these ridiculous proposals, which if this is any indicator will cumulatively be more of a harm than a help to most people, show the folly of making property tax relief such an obsession. The reason people feel their property taxes are so high is because it's the only real non-federal tax anyone is paying around here. There's no state income tax, the corporate franchise tax is an easily-avoided joke, and the sales tax only applies to the diminishing economy of goods, not services. What else is left?
Either we care about educating a rapidly expanding population or we don't. The so-called leadership in Austin has made it clear that they have other priorities. All I can hope for right now is that they manage to not screw things up beyond repair.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 04, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack