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Is this house in San Marcos worth $22,000? Father o zalez recalls. “At that time I was trying to figure out a way to do away with homestead taxes. I still think it’s a big dream now. But when you have a few people coming to you to lend them money because they can’t pay the taxes on their house, and after a while it gets to be quite a few people, well, I began to see that something had to be done about it. Back then I didn’t think with Clements it would get anywhere. But I worked on Mark White’s campaign and I worked for Doggett and I thought maybe the timing is better now. “I try to lobby. I just wonder, though, if any of these state legislators are really up there to represent the people. Do they have their hearts in the right place? This piece of legislation [Barton’s HJR 77] filed Monday affects a lot of people and makes sense. I went to talk to Gonzalo Barrientos [D-Austin] about it because I know him. We went to lunch together and I said to him, ‘Look, Gonzalo, I don’t know how anybody else works but I know we communicate. Let’s stop this bullshit that goes on in the legislature and get down to serious business.’ Speaking for the poor people I tell him, ‘We don’t have any lobbyist to fly you to Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth. All we can do is give you a taco here and a taco there. We’ve been waiting for you to grow up, to do something for your people down in the barrios. It is time to sit down with the governor and the other officials and be serious. I’ve seen those legislators jumping up and down in the legislature and making big speeches, but it’s time to be serious. The people down here are waiting for you to do something.’ At age 48 I don’t have any more time for foolishness and wondering whether our elected officials are really doing anything about these problems.” Contradictory currents run through Ralph Gonzalez’s speech. This is not surprising in a country of mixed signals. Not surprising when those who pay the least percentage of their incomes in state and local taxes are also those with the best schools and the best public services. Gonzalez believes in charity and helping others. “I’m also a Red ; Cross leader,” he says. “I’m always prepared for disasters. What this country needs is people doing things for other people. Or do you make money and get an education and forget about where you came from ; and everybody else? I could have made a lot of money by now and forget where I came from, but I can’t. I share my money.” At the same time, when he feels that the burden of government taxation has been unequally distributed, charity becomes a secondary consideration. “You pay a school tax,” Gonzalez says, “but you may not get anything out of it. I only went through the seventh grade. A lot of the people over here never had any education. And what about undocumented children? They say we have to educate them. How do they pay for their share of education? What about women who never have any children? What about people who work all their lives and pay taxes but then get sick and have big medical bills to pay? The city, the county, the school won’t say, ‘Let’s give him a break.’ We have not allowed any loopholes for these people. With all the exemptions, you’ve already raised taxes so high that it doesn’t matter anyway. “With the 1% sales tax added on it doesn’t hurt so much to pay a little through the year instead of a property tax at one time. That way everybody will be pitching in. “To get this bill through they’ll have to add some things so other people will go along with it. I was against the part about renters. So many of them live in federal housing or are students or use it as a second residence. But some people think they have to get a break, too, so we’ll do that.” Gonzalez also talks about the need for education, yet in the next breath condemns the social planning provided by experts with degrees. “We get too involved,” he says, “in government and guidelines that don’t have anything to do with living. It doesn’t come from the heart but from education. People who live through poverty have a poverty degree, and they know about poverty better than someone with a degree from a state university.” “If Proposition Zero doesn’t go this time, schools around the state will continue to have these rollbacks. With this bill we stand a chance to block this rollback and get more money per student for education. I know the city people don’t like it the way it is. Let all those legislators with their education fix it up to be fair to cities so everybody gets an even break. We’re not experts in taxing. We’re experts in getting hurt by taxing.” G.R. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15