CONTENTS FEATURES 2 Bones to Pick Geoffrey Rips 4 Gimme That Old-Time Legislation Thomas L. Whatley 6 An Agenda for the Disabled Terri Langford 7 A Defense Industry Battle Dave Denison 9 Exporting Repression James Ridgeway 11 Texans Protest Nuclear Dump Alicia Daniel 14 Night Clubs and Billy Clubs Terry FitzPatrick DEPARTMENTS 10 Dialogue 15 Political Intelligence 17 Social Cause Calendar Books and the Culture: 19 Fascinating Failure 19 Two Poets Elise Nakhnikian Lorenzo Thomas and Martha Boethel 21 Chilly Days for Free Speech Dave Denison 30 Afterword: Quiche Comes to Kerrville Bill Helmer Cover Art by Tom Ballenger spending this state’s equivalent of a defense department will go untouched. No wonder the old bones on Congress Avenue are stirring. But the metaphor is not entirely apt. An archeologist at the dig site described the mastodon as a “smoothed-out, streamlined” elephant. There is nothing smoothed-out or streamlined about this legislative session. It’s going to be awkward and mean. We’re not talking about Lee Jackson Republicans. We’re talking about a woolly mammoth of a mindset that has always lumbered through the halls of the Capitol bellowing at tax reform and improved social programs. This time the woolly mammoth gets a seat up front, among the set with the overhanging brows, next to a House Speaker who apparently plans to stand in the jailhouse door to defy federally ordered prison reforms, calling it a state’s-rights issue. The Year of Living Stingily s 0 WHAT DOES the future hold? Since 1982, with the exception of the petroleum industry, almost every economic sector in the state has experienced growth. The vote for Reagan and Gramm during the last election indicated a general consensus of economic well-being in the state. Of course, there has been the disastrous freeze in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the drought in the central and western regions of the state. Family farmers and farmworkers have been hurting. Some small banks are hurting. But along the so-called “IH-35 Corridor” business is booming, developers are developing, insurers are insuring, banks and their holding companies are collecting interest at near-record rates. There’s a Yuppie behind every bush making twice his or her parents’ income. Income for the state, however, is still tied largely to oil and gas revenues and to the sales tax. If this ever made sense, it no longer does. A report on Texas’ revenue structure prepared last year by Dr. Norton Grubb of the LBJ School Texas has an inequitable tax structure producing diminishing returns. for the state’s Select Committee on Fiscal Policy cites two studies conducted during the ’70s that place Texas as the fourth or fifth most regressive state in terms of tax policy and how it affects the average resident. Combine this with the fact that the state’s oil income will probably never again produce the large proportion of state revenues it once did, and you have an inequitable structure producing diminishing returns. In addition, you have a growing population with needs \(e.g., while the federal government is trying to dump more and more responsibility for meeting these needs on the states. Even if oil income regains previous levels \(and there are few not provide the kind of solution it did in the past. What we need, then, is a complete tax and revenue overhaul. But state officeholders are disinclined to institute any kind of overhaul, least of all in the tax structure. The first rule of those in power is to stay in power, to maintain the status quo. It is obvious that the approach of Governor Mark White and the 69th Legislature will be to nickel-and-dime the state budget, cutting pieces of agencies and programs instead of confronting the larger problem created by an inadequate revenue base. The current favorite whipping boy for cuts is the federally-mandated spending for prison reforms. Another favorite target in proposed cuts are the budgets of state-funded colleges and universities, which will also be hit with tuition increases. If successful, these stop-gap measures will induce long-term costs for Texas society. But no one wants to talk about a tax overhaul. House Ways and Means Chair Stan Schleuter, D-Killeen, used the threat of a state personal income tax last year to chasten opponents of the hikes in the motor-fuel tax and the sales tax. But that was as far as such discussion went. State Comptroller Bob Bullock, whose periodic revenue forecasts have been one shortfall after another since late in 1982, refused to speculate on revenue reform. “I don’t talk about taxes,” he told the Observer. “Why in the hell do I want to talk about taxes when they’ve [the legislature and governor] made it plain they don’t support any?” But there still is a lot of room to talk in Texas. According to the federal Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, in 1981 Texas had the fourth highest tax capacity per person of the 50 states and the District of Columbia yet ranked ahead of only Nevada in tax effort. This means that, THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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