A Nibble at a Quibble Same Oti Sto r y SUPPOSE IN TIME WE’LL ALL BECOME STODGY OLD LIBERALS’ Take a brief look behind the appropriations facade, where the Texas tax issue has human meaning; it may give you a few insights into the tragically outmoded social philosophy that continues to stifle significant reform in Texas and to make hollow mockery of the old states’ rights clarion. Two weeks ago, only moments before the regular session ended, the Senate knowing the House had stalemated on taxes approved the House Senate conference committee’s appropriations bill. It would have been the largest appropriations measure in the state’s history, but that fact alone should beguile no one with even a passing acquaintance with the archaic social services Texas has year in, year out, seen fit to provide its people. The various agencies and departments, in fact, originally requested half again more than the total $383 million which would have been appropriated from the general revenue fundand the agencies had been amply warned in advance to pare their requests to the absolute minimum needed to “hold their own.” The greatest failure by far was the slash in the proposed juvenile parole system. At present, some 2,000 delinquent children are now on parole, with no state program whatsoever to aid them. Gov . Daniel and the House had supported the full statesupported program, costing $668,000, providing for 45 parole officials. The Senate, in its original bill, had recommended a joint state county plan, costing $239,000a token program which youth officials had persistently warned would not even begin to solve the problem. The version that emerged from conference committee to be approved by the Senate two weeks ago provides for a state parole director and five assistants, to be financed entirely by the counties and localities. As Rep. Don Kennard of Fort Worth, the leading advocate in the legislature of a meaningful parole program, told the Observer this week: “In the hearings conducted on the “Texans Expect Sales Tax Bill” was a typical headline decorating the latest Belden Poll, which turns out to be one of the most curious polls of modern times. This time the Belden pollsters proclaim they have found that “a general sales tax is what the greatest number of Texans have expected the legislature to come up with to meet increasing costs of state government.” This semantic revelation, we note, inspired Joe Belden’s lead paragraph, and paragraphs to follow, of a lengthy report which was amply played in the daily press. The curious word is expected. When a voter expects something from the men he helped put in office, it normally means, of course, that he wants them to do something or other, rather than that he anticipates something on their part. But the question the Belden boys put to 1,000 Texans, and the results Belden gave first attention : “What types of taxes do you think will finally be passed?” Not surprisingly, the poll showed that 43 percent of the 1,000 persons “think” a sales tax will eventually be passed. What on God’s earth does this mean ? Nothing at all, except perhaps that the people are aware that, compared to lobbyists, they don’t cut much water around Austin. More significant, though apparently Belden didn’t judge it that way since he mentioned it far down in his release, is the fact that only 23 percent of those interviewed both “expect” and “approve” of a general sales tax. Or, at least, we may infer this is what the question meant. “In the survey just finished,” Mr. Belden wrote, “people who named a tax they expected would be enacted were then asked if they approved or disapproved juvenile parole system, county parole workers, youth workers, public-spirited businessmen who took an interest in the problem and discovered that our treatment of juvenile offenders was little short of a social crime, literally begged for reform hey warned that without an ective state parole system these youngsters will continue to go back to the same old gangs, the same tragic homes, the same way of lifewithout supervision or help of any kind. What does it take to have our eyes opened?” And what, one might ask, does it take to have our eyes opened in other crucial areas? Left completely out of the Senate’s bill, of course, was the ‘home for neglected and dependent Negro children \(although the Senate, that noble defender of states’ rights, graciously included in the appropriations bill a footnote granting its “approval” if officials could get a surplus building from the federal governThe department of public welfare had requested 80 additional social workers and were granted none, although officials are hoping they might be able to use some of the federal state vendor medical money for a few new helpers. The same department sought 37 additional child welfare workers and were granted 12 ; and were overjoyed to get that many. And even with slight monthly increases of $1.50 and $2 in assistance payments to the needy aged and ‘the blind, Texas will still remain near the bottom in both categories. 0. B. Ellis, director of the department of corrections, said in February “there’s going to be hell ahead of us” if something wasn’t done to provide additional prison guards who now work 70-hour weeks. He asked for 180 new ones ; the Senate granted none . . . In vocational rehabilitation, Texas will still rank fiftieth in the nation . . . We could continue down the list : a slight glimmer of improvement in places, but generally the same old story of foolish shortsightedness and grim neglect. of that tax. This tabulation shows the percentage who expected each tax and also would approve of it.” True, this 23 percent is a far higher percentage than approved any other tax, but in the context of the entire poll it was not only irrelevant and relatively meaningless; it was also unfair. What, we are prompted to ask, is the philosophy behind this type of poll-taking, to ask people what kind of tax they expect and then to ask those who expect a certain tax if they approve of it? Why wasn’t this simple question asked, and asked initially: “Do You Approve of a General Sales Tax?” After listing the results of his two questions, Belden then went into great detail in describing two earlier polls. In the first poll, persons were asked to choose between three taxes: a sales tax, a payrolls tax, an income tax. In the second, the alternatives were a sales tax and an income tax.. No other tax choices were given. After these revealing ventures into vox populi, Belden closed his report in the eleventh paragraph of an eleven-paragraph report, mind you with this observation : “The Texas Poll studies quoted above have not attempted to explore whether the public feels there is a need now in Texas for a broad-based tax or whether such taxes would be selected over other types.. In fact, other research by The Texas Poll has shown that most broad-based taxes are low in popularity when directly compared to such selective levies as taxes on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, business, and natural resources.” But except for those knowing souls who paused to ponder those last four words, Mr. Belden, the damage had already been done. “All the frogs are on their lilypads, puffed out and croaking. Austin has never been louderor sillier than last week . . . All over what? vet a tax battle already fought and settled. Texas is going to have a sales tax. The only issue remaining is the writing of armistice terms : is it to be pure general sales tax or a 99 44/100 pure general sales tax? On that 56/100 percent rests pride of governor, honor of Senate, fate of till state. The quibbleostensibily is -between a $10 exemption which Governor wants or 25 cent exemption Senate and others are asking. But that is only the top of the iceberg. Underneath, unseen, lies a great mass of pridewhich has been real source of tax trouble . . . “Make no mistake: Daniel did, in his televised report, shift. responsibility for sales tax becoming law from himself over to the public. Probably labor-liberals will build few fires. But generally, pros believe public will remain indifferent . . . Business won its victorya big oneby helping to change views of those not committed to business viewpoint. That can be done.” AUSTIN The croaking of this particular frog, puffed out on its lily-pad, belongs to one Texas Businessman, “the weekly advisory for Texas businesS,” a kind of pocket-sized Time Magazine, written for Texas magnates’too weary at week’s end from the making of money to figure out for themselves how best to hold onto it. “Make no mistake: business won its victorya big oneby helping change views of those not committed to business viewpoint. That can be done.” The task, however, was excruciatingly difficult, with every big city daily in Texas drumming it up for a sales tax, with every lobbyist from Selzer’s Apothecary in Port Aransas -to Gulf States Utilities working overtime for a sales tax, and with that deftly-quarterbacked citizens’ movement for a sales tax anteing-up $45,000 for the civic services of two of the finest lobbyists in the Drouth Area. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Texas business on its uphill fight. This labor-liberal who is herewith building his fire finds it rather interesting that the more urbane, Luceian wing of Texas business feels that the impending tax battle is a mere 56/100’s “quibble.” In fact, he finds this view so unusual that he is led to wonder if the businessmen who write Businessman are being somewhat more sophistical than usual. We doubt rather seriously, for instance, that those thousands of Texas families with annual incomes of less than $2,500 or $3,000 consider the Daniel-Senate struggle over the $10 exemption a quibble. Those gas producers and royalty owners who understand the genuine issues at stake most assuredly do not consider the upcoming test between the Senate’s production tax increase and the Eckhardt tax on theaipipa, lines a quibble. That hard-core 50 in the House who passionately believe passage of a soundly constitutional pipelines tax is, in terms of future generations, the most basic and crucial tax issue of them all, won’t be considering the broader tax issue to be raised in the special session an insignificant quibble. Nor will the other eleven House members who voted with the producers against the pipelines in the test vote three weeks ago. We seriously doubt that those who have long been concerned with a sensible revision of the present corporate franchise tax, weighted so heavily against home-based Texas business, would dismiss as a mere quibble another viable special session issue : whether to string along with the Senate in upping levies under the present ludicrous formula, or to go’ with the governor on a twoor threefactor franchise tax. The governor and the speaker and the anti-sales-taxers who will be working desperately against heavy odds to mold an effective coalition to salvage a more fair and reasonable tax program than the Senate abortion may ultimately have to take some breed of sales tax ; if so, the fight for additional taxes to round out the appropriations bill will most certainly be something more than a fight between quibblers. For those primarily concerned with something better than antediluvian appropriations, those who have shrewdly perceived that under the Senate tax bill the people of the state would not only have been saddled with the entire tax burden for the next two years, but would have been deprived of those social welfare programs, prison reforms, and the rest, there is precious little quibbling in the effort somehow to bring Texas social services into the cold glare of the twentieth century. The frogs may be croaking on their lily-pads, but Atthtin in July won’t be as silly as they might hope. W. M. vox poo p uk
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