* This Is the Year Finis on the 57th Peace in It was just after midnight, into the early minutes of August 9. Down in the capitol rotunda, a reporter for one of the wire services saw Tom Sealy, the wealthy Midland lawyer, the Shivers appointee’ to the University Board of Regents, the $25,000 chairman of Citizens for a Sales Tax, jubilantly cry to all passers-by the terse benediction of the victor : “Peace!” Peace it was for the Sealys, the Fosters, the Yanceys, the Britains, and the Clarks : the peace that comes to the favorite after a long and perplexing spring and summer of nagging resistence. The Texas legislature, over which their genre have presided with all the unruffled benevolence of the self-interested since the state got started, had just passed the largest and most regressive tax bill in Texas history. It was an appropriate moment to cry peace. Our only hope is that the people who had just taken it on the chin will soon see it as a Peace that passeth all understanding. There had been a little inconvenience along the way, of course. Toward the end things bumped and faltered ever so slightly. It looked for a while, for instance, that the proponents of pipeline taxation in the House had the Senate in something of a quandry over the fake gas tax. Personal privilege speeches, uncomfortable shreds of publicity, rumblings from TIPRO, were beginning to hint at the irksome truth. But things worked out gloriously. The $320 million sales tax got through with a minimum of bother. a, 5ime And the $18.5 million pipeline tax, in its unconstitutional form, was almost effortlessly gutted in conference cornmittee—to a mere presumptuous $3.3 million. Gone were the momentary fears, the brief pains in those ample solar plexi, Eckhardt’s years of research and work. The destruction of the pipeline tax, ‘along with the spurning of the twofactor franchise tax, necessitated the further bother, of course, of another short session to take care of the teachers’ pay raise. The Senate tax bill, despite the fact that some 95 percent of its would fall on such popular items as shaving cream, children’s toys, and hamburgers, was still some several million short, even with the juvenile parole system and other luxuries not provided for. Uncle Ben Ramsey and the Senate had failed to pass the teachers’ raise in the dying moments because the money simply wasn’t there to finance it. It was only a minor worry, of course, when the legislature in that next session had to dig into the Permanent School Fund to round out the tax package to take care of the teachers. And so it worked perfectly after all,the whole noble and winsome sheebang : the two percent general sales tax on everything over a quarter; the same old corporate franchise tax ; the pipeline tax, emasculated and illegal. It was a proud finish to a lusty legislature. History will remember it well. ‘Compromise, Damn HP 5he Str i por tn9 arJ But what is to be said of the secondary characters in that final drama? 1 Although there is no reason to list them in any particular order, we shall start first, out of respect for the office, with Price Daniel, the governor. On the night of the big vote, one House member warned he might have himself recorded “absent” in order to tell his constituents he “voted with the governor.” That would only have been the figurative, not the literal truth, however. The disturbing truth, dear readers, is-that the governor, who took to the airwaves scant weeks ago against the for office last summer against the sales tax, worked as diligently as a fellow can work, toward the end of the special session, for that egregious project. With similar boldness, he further urged taking gas out of the gas tax. Having performed so well verbally these past months against a sales tax and for the gas tax and the two-factor franchise tax \(likewise unsung in the Senate tax bill he so serving that he go down in history as the governor who wanted the escheat bill and got one without banks. 2 Then there is Speaker Turman, who rode his proud and confident coalition to victory in January to preside over its final and irrevocable rout in August. Gober and the nudists far behind, ambition began to flutter in that modest breast. The lieutenant governorship might be an attractive next step for any boy from Gober unencumbered by the clumsy superfluity of fixed opinion. To that appetizing end, bothersome old friends, like favorite uncles and cous Published by Texas Observer Co., Ltd. Entered as second-class matter, April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. AUGUST 12, 1961 Willie Morris Editor and General Manager Bob Sherrill, Associate Editor Sarah Payne, Office Manager Ronnie Dugger, Contributing Editor ins gone on the rocks, might be bumptiously gaveled in the head. The bumps, in fact, might more easily be forgot when pundits in dailies suddenly begin praising courageous actions of responsible young public servants on the rise. 3 4 5 6 Messrs. Ballman, Murray, Quilham, and Nugent, those four representatives on the second conference committee, also have their roles in the drama. Compromise, they would have us remember, is the raw stuff of statesmanship ; steeling their nerves and shouting courage, they stoutly wrung from the Senate two mighty concessions, deletion of the $41/2 million giveaway to the telephone companies, and approval of a playful pipeline tax reduced to onefifth of original value. Having thus so boldly renounced their colleagues’ instructions to stand firm on pipelines, they returned with the fruits of hard-earned victory and helped see the matter through. It is this kind of statesmanship, we live to learn, of which raw stuff is made. 7 And finally, there is Atty. Gen. Wilson, exhuming for the nonce a political future done in by the fatal flaw of April. Stooping to conquer at some later hatepossibly next Mayhe became a mere pawn in the scenario. What pledges transpired in that cloistered rendezvous with Grandmother Wardlow Lane on that last afternoon we shall never know, but it was he who authored the clause that stripped the pipeline tax, as if the divine intervention would somehow revive his dead hopes, like a heart stopped beating and massaged into a brief and final flutter. Published once a week from Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $5 per annum. Advertising rates available on request. Extra copies . 15c each. Quantity prices available on order. EDITORIAL and BUSINESS OFFICE: 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas. Phone GReenwood 7-0746. HOUSTON OFFICE: Mrs. R. D. Randolph, 419% Lovett Blvd., Houston 6, Texas. AUSTIN THOSE EFFICACIOUS BROKERS for the general sales tax having treated us throughout the ‘legislative season with various polls which threatened to convince everyone within hearing distance that this popular reform was producing more revolutionary agitation than the AntiCorn Laws, it was with keen interest that we perused the first item of immediate response two days after the final vote. The Houston Press, in a man-onthe-street \(to be differentiated from poll, cornered eight gentlemen of diverse callings on a downtown street. Disregarding for the moment one Howard Nugent, who is a seaman and who perambulates all over, we will consider briefly the testimony of a wholesale drug salesman, a plumber, a magazine routeman, a salesman, a barber, a painter, and a repairman. Said the wholesale drug salesman : “Small druggists will have a timeconsuming job computing and collecting this tax.” Said the plumber : “I don’t think much of this two percent sales tax in general, but if only a few pennies derived from it will go to defense, I’m for it.” Said the magazine routeman : “A two percent tax on something working people really need does nothing but hurt them.” Said the salesman : “A poor man can’t own a farm anymore. Why shouldn’t farmers and ranchers carry part of the tax burden?” Said the barbar : “They’re taxing the poor people to death. I don’t approve of this sales tax at all.” Said the painter : “The sales tax is just one tax too many. The working people will carry the load. It isn’t a fair tax.” And said the repairman : “I don’t like this sales tax worth a darn. The Senate sold us out up there. It did everything in the world from start to finish to put the tax on the .little man.” Such a sampling may lack the more scientific techniques of vox populi as conducted by the roving C. of C. emissaries of the late sales taxers, but we venture to predicttwo weeks before they start collecting the sales tax, mind youthat it will turn out to be an astonishly accurate gauge of majority sentiment in the state. By the simple fact of its collection, the sales tax is going to effect a revolution in spending habits. It is going to be a day-to-day reminder that something has changed, and changed drastically, in the economy of state government. It is going to cause unmitigated trouble, in the first several months, for the salesman, the retailer, and the wholesaler. Nor it it going to take long for its regressivity to make its impression on the public conscience. A housewife in South Austin who goes shopping twice a week, or an office worker in Alvin who has a 65-cent plate lunch six days a week, won’t need scales and charts to understand who feels the biggest pinch. Charlie Hughes, in an excellent speech delivered out of sheer anger and exasperation Tuesday night, coined the perfect phrase. The sales tax could be a “political retirement act” in this state beyond all anticipated dimensions. Coupled with those several dozen voting records in both houses which helped bring on what Hughes called the “political sham” of the clothing exemption and the “political chicanery” of the gas tax, the sales tax could very well, with proper organization, produce what years of campaigning on appropriations and more difficult issues’ have failed to achieve. Consider the arithmetic involved: a change of three votes in the Senate would make that institution moderately liberal ; a change of five or six votes would produce an incredible difference. A change of ten or fifteen votes in the House would utterly revamp the ideological character of that body. THIS IS the year. Every legislator in the capitol faces reelection. Both the governorship and the lieutenant-governorship are likely to be vacant. The issue is going to be simple, meaningful, and explosive. The Spears coalition in San Antonio last May distributed sales tax “tokens” all over the city and played the sales tax matter to its utmost. The result was a devastating sweep; the tactics behind that sweep should be studied and re-studied in every constituency in Texas. There should be enormous political debts to be paid by those representatives of the peoplethe Garrisons and Reagans, Olivers and Fullers, Moffetts and Fairchildswho voted at every turn to tax pajamas, aspirin, and shoes, while opposing without exception every attempt to tax the pipelines and the corporations. Let there be no doubt : this the people will understand. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7hls u t
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