Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

It’s the “I am rubber, you are glue” election

The Chron notes that some of the charges that the two gubernatorial campaigns will lob at each other could easily be lobbed right back at themselves.

Perry slammed White for not ruling out new taxes, pointing to 2003, when state lawmakers faced a $10 billion budget shortfall without raising taxes. But the governor does not mention that lawmakers also deregulated college tuitions and approved $2.7 billion in fee increases and reductions in state employee benefits.

Perry boasts of a cut in local school property tax rates, but does not note that rising property appraisals quickly overtook the move, or that the cut strained the state’s budget.

He also talks about cutting taxes for small businesses in the most recent legislative session, but fails to mention that the move cut a portion of a new business tax he originally pushed to help pay for the reduction in school tax rates.

The same goes for White. He touts the buildup of surpluses during his tenure that have helped Houston avoid the need for severe budget cuts, but those surpluses never would have materialized without the use of pension bonds, according to Fernandez.

In other words, borrowed money propped up the budget. Perry may attack White on that front, but it was Perry who signed the 2003 bill allowing White to do so.

White frequently cites his property tax rate cuts, but those never translated into actual reductions of the tax burden for most Houstonians because of rising property appraisals. And his spending cap proposal that passed early in his tenure? He initiated the spending cap proposal because another with far more stringent spending limits was on the ballot. Voters approved both, but because White’s had a higher majority, he disregarded the other.

It’s true there are some surface parallels, and I’m sure we’ll hear words like “hypocrisy” and “he did it too!” more than once during this campaign. But look, not all of these things are on the same level, and none is as big a deal as the 2006 property tax cuts, which has done far more damage to the state’s financial stability than a downturn in sales tax revenues could do. We may get through this session on a combination of Rainy Day funds and another kneecapping of education and health care, but the multi-billion dollar revenue shortfall that was the swapping of property taxes for the business margins tax will still be there. If we don’t find some other source of funds to close that gap, we’ll still need to appropriate enough money from the general revenue to pay for the difference. And if we don’t do that this session, we’ll have to do it next session. A return to health for the economy will not fix this.

This to me is the fundamental debate, and it represents what we want out of the next four or more years from Austin. Do we value tax cutting for its own sake, or do we want to provide for public education in this state? That’s the choice we have to make.

Related Posts:

Comments are closed.