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A better idea than suspending the sales tax holiday

I’ll go along with this.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis said Monday he will fight the proposed suspension of the state’s August school supplies sales tax holiday he created in 1999 unless lawmakers also consider ending tax breaks “for those who have the most in our society.”

“We’ve got all kinds of little goodies, all kinds of tax breaks, and we are going to suspend the sales tax holiday that benefits the working class?” Ellis, D-Houston, asked. “Don’t balance the budget on the backs of the working class.”

Ellis said he favors a comprehensive look at all tax loopholes, including one for natural gas that costs the state $1.2 billion a year, and another “green space” tax exemption that benefits country clubs. He is sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would require the Legislature to review its tax exemptions periodically.

[…]

Ellis says a comprehensive study on all tax exemptions would allow lawmakers to make rational choices.

He noted that tax “high cost gas” exemption, which cost the state $1.2 billion last year, was created in 1989 to help companies with the costs of drilling high cost wells. Ellis said the policy “made sense as we were in a massive recession and energy costs were a fourth of what they are today.

“Now, however, virtually every new well produced is a ‘high cost’ well, meaning all new drilling receives an ‘incentive’ to do what they are already going to do. And it is not mom and pop producers getting this tax break,” he said. “Oklahoma-based Devon Energy saved $113.8 million in FY 2010, while reporting net profits of $4.6 billion. If we are serious about responsibly balancing the budget, we would actually start eliminating loopholes right now.”

For months now, we’ve been hearing about “hard choices”, and “sacrifice”, and “living within our means”. Well, it’s a lot easier to make “hard choices” when you know that none of the choices will directly affect you. It’s easy to call for “sacrifice” when all of the sacrifice will be made by others. There’s no reason I can think of why we shouldn’t be reviewing all of the current tax exemptions and expenditures to see which make sense and which need to be modified or removed. But that might require some sacrifice from entities that aren’t currently being asked to make any, and we just can’t have that.

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