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How about a temporary sales tax hike?

I am deeply conflicted about this.

State Rep. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, has filed a bill to temporarily increase the state sales tax by 2 cents on the dollar for two years.

He estimates it would raise $6 billion, which would be dedicated to public education under House Bill 1597. The measure is meant to address a bare-bones budget proposal that would give school districts nearly $10 billion less over the next two years than they’d get under current formulas.


His proposal would increase the state sales tax to 8 1/4 cents per dollar. The increase would expire Sept. 1, 2013. Menéndez said he could suggest putting the idea to a vote of the people in an effort to make it more palatable to the GOP-majority Legislature.

Here’s HB1597. I absolutely agree that we need more revenue, that funding public schools is a top priority, and that nearly anything is better than firing 100,000 teachers. Having said all that, I have two problems with this. One is the highly regressive nature of the sales tax. The people who can least afford this will bear the biggest brunt of the tax. And two, while I appreciate the desire to just make it through this session without getting too badly hurt and hope for better next time, I feel like this will ensure we take no action to fix the structural deficit, and I don’t think that’s wise. I’d consider this as an if-all-else-fails measure, but I want to aim a little higher first.

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  1. Will B says:

    I don’t mind the regressive nature of raising the sales tax temporarily if all the money raised does go to fund the schools, as those with a higher level of income already pay a much larger share of the public school bill via property tax. If the money was going to funding a new sports arena, that would be a very, very different story. I just hope the priority with any revenue generated is to protect and fully fund the absolute necessities of the system: teachers, school maintenance, books and supplies, security/on campus nurses and not the ‘extras’ that drain funds from the budget, specifically the non-essential on-campus and HISD HQ personnel.

  2. robert kane says:

    Don’t do it, it will be money that will forever be counted on and the sales tax will never be lowered, only extended.

    California has a 10.5% sales tax….really?

    They are broke being a 10% partner with practically every business in the state????

    Robert Reich said this is one of his blogs and it’s disturbing:

    The truth is that while the proximate cause of America’s economic plunge was Wall Street’s excesses leading up to the crash of 2008, its underlying cause — and the reason the economy continues to be lousy for most Americans — is so much income and wealth have been going to the very top that the vast majority no longer has the purchasing power to lift the economy out of its doldrums.

    5 states have no sales tax….How do they get by? New Hampshire has no sales tax and no state income tax, kinda makes you wonder,no?

  3. You know, I’m not sure I’d be that upset about that, providing that basic necessities (medications, unprepared food) remain exempt. Other states exempt more than Texas does from their sales tax requirements – things such as infant diapers that are a necessity, yet people often struggle to pay for, so that’s something to consider too.

    I’d also be totally fine with a higher tax on some items – things no one “needs” like fast food, candy, soda/fountain drinks, alcohol.

    And yes, I have no problem using sales tax as a carrot (or a stick) to guide behavior. I do think we would all benefit if some safety items like infant carseats and smoke detectors were tax free as an incentive to purchase and use these items. We could encourage better environmental choices as well – not unlike the recent energy efficient household appliance initiatives, just on a much smaller scale.