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The Speaker knows what we’re up against

I’m sure House Speaker Joe Straus is looking ahead to the 2011 session and stockpiling the Maalox and Excedrin.

Among the “interim charges” to 31 committees handed out by Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio – issues for lawmakers to study and consider – are examinations of tax changes that could boost state revenue and reinvigorate Texas’ flagging economy.

The speaker’s study list includes seeing if some state tax breaks have outlived their usefulness, though he didn’t specify which ones. He also asked whether incentives – presumably tax breaks – would stimulate manufacturing, energy production, and the film and music industries.

On the spending side, while Straus sounded a note of compassion for the needy, he also appeared clearly alarmed at possible overspending and waste, especially in health care. He ordered budget-writing and social services committees to look at chronic delays at state eligibility offices that have frustrated many Texans applying for food stamps.


Dick Lavine, senior fiscal analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income Texans, welcomed Straus’ scrutiny of big tax giveaways.

Lavine, a former House tax policy researcher, said the exemptions study could be “a way to start plugging the holes” in Texas’ revenue base.

“We have a tax system that is filled with exemptions that may at one time have made sense, but nobody has gone back to look at them to see if they’re still accomplishing their objectives and are still the most cost-efficient way of getting to those objectives,” he said.

You know what my preference is, but there’s merit to this approach as well, even if it’s unlikely to be able to fill the gap. But maybe it’s more likely to happen than rolling back the property tax cut, even a little bit. It’s a good idea regardless, as long as we keep it in perspective. I just hope the will exists to follow through.

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One Comment

  1. Daniel Williams says:

    Texas is one of only seven states without an income tax. The state constitution requires that if a income tax is created that 2/3 go toward lowering property taxes and 1/3 goes to the foundation school fund. Imposing a income tax on those whose annual income is over 100 thousand (81st HB1735) would substantially address Texas’s regressive tax structure. To bad it will never pass.