April 19, 2006
Docs endorse Perry Plan

Score one for Governor Perry: The previously recalcitrant Texas Medical Association (TMA) has agreed to endorse the Texas Tax Reform Commission's business tax plan.

The TMA had opposed the expanded business tax that Perry is promoting to help pay for school tax reductions because the measure would tax doctors for the first time.

The governor secured the support of the doctors and groups representing dentists, hospitals and other health care providers by agreeing to give them tax deductions for charitable care, such as emergency room and Medicaid and Medicare services, for which they are not paid or are undercompensated.

"These new provisions are important so that our tax system doesn't harm the doctors, hospitals and medical institutions that provide life-saving care for Texans in need," he said.

Under the agreement, doctors, dentists and other individual providers would be allowed to deduct from the new tax 100 percent of their uncompensated care for emergency room services, Medicare and military insurance clients. They would be allowed to deduct 150 percent of uncompensated services for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Hospitals, nursing homes and other health care institutions would have deductions at one-half the level of doctors.

This is a win for Perry no matter how you slice it. The more organizations like the TMA he can get on board, the better the chances are that his plan will pass. In the Pink has more.

What remains to be seen is if enough legislators buy into the idea that it's okay to cut taxes now and then work on fixing school finance later. Not everyone is willing to agree to that.

"When somebody in government says, 'trust me,' that's always a problem," House Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chair Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said Wednesday. "What he's saying is, 'look, you help me on this tax solution first, and I'll help you on your stuff later. And that's not how this is going to work from our perspective."

The Texas House is scheduled to debate the school property tax on Monday. House leaders are trying to limit debate to property tax relief.

"The most important part for many kids is their opportunity to get a better education," Gallego said. "We have left the schools out of school finance."

I don't see much reason for any Democrat to trust Perry on this, and given the huge number of bills filed already, many of which contain not-on-the-call provisions like teacher pay raises, it's not clear to me that the Lege wants to deal with this in pieces. Perry has some momentum, but he also still has a long way to go.

There's also still ideological opposition to the TTRC plan, and not just on the left.

A conservative Austin-based grassroots organization that calls itself Empower Texans announced today the launch of its Web site, BigPileofMoney.com and an original song asking lawmakers to return the state's budget surplus to taxpayers.

"We urge the Texas Legislature to return the surplus to its rightful owners: Texas taxpayers. By returning $6.86 billion of this surplus not already committed to new spending, we can save the owner of a $200,000 home $1,300 next year in school property taxes. Best of all, we can do this without any new taxes," said organization chairman Tim Dunn of Midland.

These guys must have held a press conference, because there's nowhere on the site that lists who's behind BigPileOfMoney.com, and a Whois lookup on the domain reveals only a guy in Arizona as the contact. They do have a page full of links to Texas Public Policy Foundation articles, and a page exhorting letters to the editors and emails to various radio talk-show hosts. Put all that together, and I don't see "grassroots", I see Astroturf. Anyone wants to explain to me why I'm wrong about that, go for it.

Other stuff happening: You can attendt the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the tax plan tomorrow at 10 AM, if you're so inclined. Or watch the TV and look for one of Lt. Gov. Dewhurst's ads about the tax plan. Or just read more about Rep. Eddie Rodriguez's income tax proposal and take a nap afterwards. Three days down, who knows how many to go.

UPDATE: Two more links of interest, from Eye on Williamson: Sen. Steve Ogden's not-well-received proposal for a Constitutional amendment capping property taxes at $1.15, and some strong criticism of the TTRC plan for its inadequate funding of schools.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 19, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

I agree it is a big endorsement.

I think it hurts Strayhorn most, as she's been the most outspoken against the plan.

Posted by: Right of Texas on April 20, 2006 12:10 AM