The convention comes to grips with taxation 10 The Texas Observer Before the recess Interesting goings-on at the Con -stitutional Convention. First of all, the delegates have apparently settled the question of how long they will work and how long they will campaign. After a long and somewhat rancorous debate, the convention. voted to recess from April 5 until May 6, and to extend the finished-product deadline from May 31 until July 31. The decision allows members to campaign for re-election to the Legislature or for election to other positions \(they will undoubtedly be asked why they couldn’t finish the constitution appropriate additional money for the second half of their deliberations. Estimates vary, but the supplemental sum will probably be somewhere between $500,000 and $1,500,000. That money Political Intelligence may become a campaign issue, as well. The debate over recessing came just after delegates had given temporary approval to the finance article, and it neatly symbolized the convention’s dilemma in the last two weeks. Delegate and Rep. Ray Hutchison, the articulate conservative Republican from Dallas, put it this way: “The press and maybe it’s completely justified, I don’t know has been so close to the scene that they’ve been looking more at how the sausage is made than at how it tastes.” Among the other things the press has been looking at is button-pushing, the casual custom among legislators by which votes are cast for members who are not present on the floor, and absenteesim. Convention President Price Daniel, Jr., ever a man with an eye out for a good convention image, instituted oral roll calls in the morning and sealing of absent members’ voting machines after a flurry of published accounts naming names and numbers. While this process-watching was going on, the convention was slogging through the finance article. Amid all the pressures on the delegates from innumerable and unpredictable sides, the convention as a whole produced an Article VIII that well, it’s really not bad. The Highway Fund, which .11:1 to rank as the most controversial item in the article, came through not-quite-unscathed. After uncounted attempts to crack the kitty for mass transit, delegates opted for keeping the Good Roads Association language in the article proper but submitting an alternate proposition to the voters. The alternate language, if adopted, would provide that all revenues from any increase in the gasoline tax \(currently five cents per be split between the Available School Fund and the state’s general revenue fund. Mass transit, in turn, got a pat on the head. The article allows the Legislature to spend money on mass transit and to authorize special authorities \(like the ill-fated HARTA of last year see Obs., planning and ‘building mass transit systems. Trouble is, no one on the floor claimed seriously that the Legislature does not have such authority under the 1876 constitution. And several members felt that inclusion of such explicit language \(specifically, “state taxes not dedicated by ruling that Highway Fund expenditures for even minimal mass transit purposes, like bus lanes, are prohibited. On the plus side, the convention retained virtually unchanged the Finance Committee’s recommendations for reform of ad valorem taxation. The draft article, as tentatively approved, directs the Legislature to “provide for the establishment and enforcement of appraisal standards and procedures,” including qualifications for tax appraisers, for the entire state. It also provides that only one appraisal of property should be made in each county, so that all taxing authoirites would work from the same appraised value. And it allows taxpayers to place their payments in escrow while appealing appraisals. Rep. Neil Caldwell, the puckish chairman of the Finance Committee, told the Observer he was satisfied with the convention’s work on Article VIII. “I’m pleased not only with the good that was done, but also with what we managed to escape,” he said. On the last two days of
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