rizg aziz. g cEvER hi A .17/o1/1 Fouh4es .470fri .6/ccy aRyroil McKnight voted against it; Clower and Ogg were absent; and Moore didn’t to declare themselves. There were numerous clear-cut choices before the full House, however, and the Observer has chosen ten to reflect each representative’s general voting pattern. This voting analysis was compiled with the help of Observer staff assistant Helen Jardine. 1 Rush to judgment On the session’s opening day, Speaker Billy Clayton laid out his omnibus constitutional amendment comprising all sorts of tax limitations and cuts, some of which he had just thought up over the weekend. Members were unfamiliar with most of the measures, yet Clayton tried a quick power play to force passage of his package before legislators, local government officials, teachers, and just plain citizens could take time to think about it. The ploy was to suspend the House rule requiring a five-day public notice before a committee can hold a hearing on a bill. The rules suspension would have allowed Rep. Tim Von Dohlen’s constitutional amendments committee to jump right on the speaker’s package, give it a once-over-lightly, and bounce it back to the floor for a quickie debate and vote. If the leadership had had its way, the whole thing would have been over before most members had unpacked their bags, but the House was in no mood to be pushed. Von Dohlen’s motion to suspend the rules failed to win the two-thirds major , ity it needed to pass: the vote was 88 for, 52 against. Observer stars go to those who balked. 2 One for Howard Hughes As things stand now, the first $25,000 of a deceased person’s estate is exempt from Texas inheritance taxes. Gov-. Dolph Briscoe thinks wealthy people bigger break. He proposed to exempt eight times that muchthe first $200,000 of an estatefrom taxation, even though only the richest 3 percent of Texans die with estates that large. Even that level of largesse did not satisfy Reps. Fred On of DeSoto and Bill Ceverha of Dallas, however. They thought the rich should have the whole hog, so they moved to abolish the inheritance tax outright. After an hour and a half of soul-searching debate, the House refused to give Orr and Ceverha the two-thirds majority they needed, though 85 members voted for the super-rich. Stars to the 60 members who voted no. 3 Intangible property Eliminating intangible property from the constitutionally defined tax base was another feature of Clayton’s “tax relief’ package. At stake was about $600 billion worth of stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, mortgage holdings, accounts receivable, and the likethe overwhelming majority of it owned by the very richest Texanswhich would be off limits to tax collectors if the measure were adopted. Such action would sanction Texas’ de facto tax system, a grossly discriminatory one that ignores intangibles even though the constitution requires their taxation and thus puts a disproportionate share of the tax burden on middleand lower-income groups. Reps. Bill Sullivant of Gainesville and Fred Head of Athens moved to keep the constitution’s current provision, but Rep. Lyndon Olson of Waco moved to table their motion. Olson and the rich prevailed by a vote of 80 to 58. Stars go to those who voted against tabling. 4 Corporate income tax Rep. Douglas McLeod of Galveston got so caught up in the spirit of tax relief that he proposed elimination of a tax that doesn’t even existhe offered a constitutional prohibition of a state income tax. Though no one has proposed it, a progressive income tax is about the fairest means of raising governmental revenue and the day may come when Texas needs it. But election-conscious legislators were not about to be statesmanlike on an issue this hot, and they swamped a motion to table McLeod’s amendment. Rep. Ron Waters of Houston, in a last-ditch effort to contain the damage McLeod was doing, offered a subtitute amendment. It would have prohibited only the personal income tax, leaving the state the option down the road of passing a corporate income tax. But Waters’s substitute was tabled by a vote of 95 to 43. Zeroes to those who stood with the corporations against Waters. 5 Personal property Clayton and his cohorts also proposed to exempt non-income-producing personal property from taxationstill another move favoring the wealthy, who tend to have far more such possessions. In a gesture toward fairness, Rep. Bill Hollowell of Grand Saline offered an amendment to limit this exemption to $30,000 so greater wealthsay, a family’s second Rolls Roycecould still be taxed. No deal, said Representative Von Dohlen, who moved to table the amendment. But Von Dohlen couldn’t get the votes he neededhis motion failed 62 to 72and Hollowell’s $30,000 limit stuck in the House. \(It was later taken out by the limit. 6 Corporate farm incentive Dolph Briscoe proposed to give farmers some relief by taxing farmland at something less than its market value. But Clayton and friends, at the behest of corporate interests, changed the governor’s proposal in committee to allow big corporate farms and timber firms to take advantage of the tax break. Rep. John Bryant of Dallas attempted to amend the committee substitute on the House floor so only family farmers would qualify for the special valuations, but Rep. Jimmie Edwards of Conroe successfully moved to table Bryant’s amendment, 94 to 49. Gold stars to those who stood up for family farmers. , l THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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