even with the economic declines of the past three years, Texas still has an enormous, untapped revenue potential that will not require a bloodless coup or state takeover of banks and utilities but will simply result from a re-aligning of the tax structure to the income structure of the state. To do that, a broad-based tax is needed. The two such taxes used by most states are the sales tax and the personalincome tax. The Texas sales tax already provides about 39% of the state’s revenue and has risen to the highest rate most voters and local governments \(with their own sales-tax income. Texas is one of seven states without such a tax. A state tax of 2 percent would provide a large revenue jump. In 1984, the comptroller estimated that a progressive rate of 2 percent for the first $7500 in taxable income, 3 percent for $7501 to $15,000, and 4 percent for income over $15,000 would raise $6.9 billion for the 1986-87 biennium. Twelve states whose revenues are not tied to energy income have announced tax cuts this year. It is time to start talking about these things. Most states before instituting a personal-income tax go through a period of several years in which services ,are cut and small taxes and license fees are raised a little here and there. And Texas residents would be understandably reluctant to relinquish more of their hard-earned income to a legislature whose budgetary deliberations are so heavily influenced by the business lobby. But the discussion must begin. The welfare of the residents of this state cannot withstand Reaganomics from without and Reaganomics from within. In the meantime, however, the mammoths and mastodons will continue to wallow in the bogs, unable to adapt or move to stave off eventual extinction. G.R. Austin THE TEXAS Legislature is meeting in regular session for the 69th time in an unusual atmos phere of internal harmony. Nowhere is there a center of automatic opposition to the will of the current leadership of either the House or the Senate. ‘ Gone are the days of the Dirty Thirty and the Killer Bees, of watchdogs like John Bryant in the House and Lloyd Doggett in the Senate, who had to be taken into account by those in control. After a shaky start in the 1983 session, Speaker Gib Lewis demonstrated during last summer’s special session on education and taxes that he is firmly in control of the House. Most liberal and minority members have decided to work from within the Speaker’s team rather than be shut out from committee chair appointments and other favors dispensed by the dominant coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans. Alliances form, dissolve, and re-form around particular issues, but there is no organized, consistent challenge to the Lewis team. Ronald Reagan’s coattails in 1984 were made of double-knit polyester as Thomas L. Whatley is the editor of Texas Government Newsletter. they pulled in a record 52 Republican House members. The Republicans will eschew, for now, any effort to organize themselves into a formal party block, lest they provoke the 98 Democrats into doing the same. As a Democrat in name only, the conservative Lewis has found most of the Republican members congenial. As long as the Speaker continues to grant the GOP their proportionate share of committee chairs and other favors, the more extreme conservative boat-rockers in the Republican party will remain isolated. But partisan tensions could arise if the strengthened Republican forces seek to embarrass Gov. Mark White in order to gain ammunition for next year’s election. The Senate has assumed the character of its leader, Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby cautious, colorless, competent. The dominant forces are legislative technicians of a moderate-conservative stripe, exemplified by Ray Farabee of Wichita Falls and Kent Caperton of Bryan and rising stars like Chet Edwards of Duncanville and Republican Bob McFarland of Arlington. The new Senate remains solicitous about corporate concerns and is more inclined toward pragmatic problem-solving than confrontation. One reason for the lack of internal dissension this session may be that legislators face the grim political prospect of apportioning scarcity. The state has too little of life’s necessities money and water. Whether to expand the supply or make do with what is already available will be the pervasive question of the session. While legislators huddle together for protection in anticipation of the difficult days ahead, some other matters of less cosmic proportions could place strains on the current era of good feelings. Efforts to repeal the “blue law” restriction on Sunday retail sales and to weaken the protection of homesteads against foreclosure for default on consumer loans are two among many issues that could shake the legislature’s internal consensus. The Old Homestead AN EFFORT by credit institutions to weaken the homestead protection will be fought by con sumer groups. The Texas Constitution prohibits forced sale of the principal home, or homestead, of a person or family for their failure to repay debts unrelated to the home itself. Foreclosure is allowed only if the homeowner defaults on the payment of the purchase mortgage of the home itself, fails to pay for labor and materials for home improvement, or neglects to pay taxes. Some lenders want to ease the current restrictions and allow homeowners to use their home equity, the current market value of the house minus the unpaid loan balance, as collateral for loans for other purposes. The homestead protection was first enacted by the Republic of Texas in 1839 in response to widespread home foreclosures following a financial panic. The concept spread across the United States, and the Texas homestead protection remains one of the strictest in the New Laws Aimed at Traditional Values Gimme That Old-Time Legislation By Thomas L. Whatley 4 JANUARY 25, 1985
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