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// +IN*, .111.1107.6.000411.1611,11044.111sa. , Texas Taxes Texas Taxes Austin Sophisticated arguments about tax justice, which fill obscure tax and economic journals, are ridiculously mathematical and politically naive. Poor people want rich people taxed, rich people want to keep their money, and people in the middle feel squeezed by taxes they pay that the poor don’t pay and the rich don’t feel. The rich can buy the most legislative influence, the middle-income people do the best they can through their own organizations and the poor pay and stay. poor. It falls to spokesmen for the minority organizations and to humanitarians “the liberals” to speak for the otherwise voiceless poor. Then, the legislature passes a tax bill. That marvelous and mangy process defies description mostly because it defies detection. Rarely a strong central idea of fairness will take hold, such as when the income tax passed Congress in 1913. Commonly, thousands, tens of thousands of littler events comprise the process, from courses taken in classrooms years ago to the “moral mortgages” \(to use Eric politicians with campaign contributions to arguments in committee to the ambitions of so and so to be governor. The thing shapes up to enrage half the legislature and then kind of goes to pieces, a cracking-up in the jaws of oratory, and ten politicians put the pieces in baskets and carry them into a room, lock the door so nobody else can see or hear, and then, here it is: the tax bill. In Texas since, say, 1950, it has generally in the final upshot taxed natural resources about as before, sales more and more and income never at all. Laments about the high level of state and local taxation are not well taken in Texas. Considering the state’s piled-up, neglected public needs, the only way to argue logically against substantially higher taxation of some kind in 1971 is to advance straight-out, ideological opposition to any new taxes. The comparatively very low level of Texas state and local taxation is shown by a new study conducted by the government of the District of Columbia, a copy of which the Observer has obtained. Daniel E. Lucas, financial economist of the District of Columbia, took the 25 largest cities in the U.S., which include the three largest Texas cities, and compared the state and local sales, real estate and income taxes paid by a family of four. School, county and city property taxes are all included. In San Antonio a family of four with $10,000 income paid $862, ranking the place 12th among the major cities. Dallas and Houston ranked lowest 24th and 25th in every category of income for a family of four from $5,000 to $25,000. At the $10,000 level, Dallasites paid $425 and Houstonians $400, compared, for instance, to $1,506 in Milwaukee, $1,388 in Baltimore, $995 in Phoenix. THE TEXAS Research League’s work \(passed on by the Texas Committee of State and Local Tax Policy, which pattern of reality, less dramatically but more generally. In a report last November, the committee said: “The ‘tax burden index’ for Texas in 1968 was 8.5% lower than any of [12 states being studied] except Ohio. In point of fact, the tax burden index would place Texas 49th among all 50 states with only Ohio ranking below it.” \(The italics have The 12 states in the League’s study were the major industrial states plus Louisiana and Oklahoma. Among these, the study showed, a family of four in Houston with $10,000 income would have paid higher taxes in every other state except Louisiana. Laments about the unfairly high tax burden borne by the poor in Texas are entirely well taken. These same two studies prove this, too. The D.C. study showed that all three major Texas cities have regressive tax burdens, meaning “that families earning higher amounts of income bear less a percent burden than low income families.” In San Antonio, families earning $5,000 a year pay 8.9% in state and local taxes; families earning $25,000 pay 6.7%. In Dallas, families at $5,000 pay 4.6%; families at $25,000 pay 3.2%. In Houston, families at $5,000 pay 4.3%; families at $25,000 pay 3.0%. That is to say: In Texas poor people pay more of their income for state and local taxes than well-off people do. The “war on poverty” in Texas has this rather special meaning. The Texas Research League’s data again bear out the D.C. study. Relying on work done by two economists in the National Tax Journal in December, 1969, the League reports that a Houston family of four earning $3,500 a year \(just below the pays $336 in state and local taxes, compared to the $25,000 family’s $815 and the $50,000 family’s $1,250. The Texas Research League, being funded by major corporations, and hardly wishing to exacerbate class rivalries, does. January 29, 1971 3