Page 11


“We have far, far more important matters to consider.” This may or may not qualify as Clements’s first hasty retreat of the session. A while ago, it looked as if the governor intended to take on Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. The governor’s business-dominated task force on economic development had recommended, among many ways to improve the state’s business climate, the elimination of Hightower’s elected position. Clements seized upon this as a fine idea and announced his view that the head of the agriculture department should instead be appointed by the governor. Hightower drubbed him in the Sunday papers on grounds of “dilution of democracy” and that’s the last anyone has heard of the idea. But Clements would doubtlessly try to get it through the legislature if he thought he could. It would be a statutory change rather than a constitutional one, so voters would have nothing to say on the matter \(which is not, by the way,. the BUT THE REAL face-off is coming on the question of whether the legislature will abide by Clements’s insistence that state spending rise by no more than $750 million that a $36.9 billion two-year budget is “the bottom line.” The governor says he will veto any tax increase beyond, the $2.9 billion that will be raised by making Mark White’s “temporary” sales tax hikes of last summer permanent. But. the House and Senate are considering a budget that calls for $38.8 billion in spending, the amount that is needed to maintain current levels of state services. Such a plan, of course, would mean an additional tax increase. Two approaches to the tax question are shaping up. The easiest road will be to keep the “temporary” taxes on the books. More difficult will be to restructure’ the sales tax by broadening it to include a host of services not now taxed. Clements says he is in favor of such a move, but he insists that it be done in a “revenue neutral” fashion. Many in the House and Senate are now asking why they would want to put themselves through a major fight from service industry lobbyists and then not to have even raised any extra money for their trouble. The point that continually seems to elude the governor is that the tax system isinadequate because it does not raise enough money to fund the government. True tax reform would allow the government to balance its books, and at the same time more fairly distribute the tax burden. At this point, no one seems willing to produce such a plan. Comptroller Bob Bullock has drawn up a scheme for expanding the sales tax base while reducing the rates, but he has drawn it to conform with Clements’s silly quest for “revenue neutrality.” His plan would reduce the sales tax from 5.25 percent to 4.5 percent and tax lawyers, doctors, barbers, repairmen, etc. He would also rewrite the state’s franchise tax, and reduce the consumers’ burden from 54 percent to 51 percent of total taxes paid to the state. In the background of the tax discussion, interesting rumbles about corporate and personal incometaxes can be heard. Bullock told the Senate Finance committee that they might as well begin talking about an income tax, although he was quick to say he would be personally opposed to such an idea. As far as we can tell, the only daily newspaper in the state that editorializes in favor of an income tax is the Austin American-Statesman. But in the wake of Bullock’s semi-bold remark, the Corpus Christi Caller stepped in with, “There may be other answers than a state income tax, but the possibility certainly has to be considered, especially in light of federal tax changes.” And the San Antonio Express-News, rarely on the forefront of liberal opinion, said “Bullock should Comptroller Bob Bullock: Against hurricanes and income taxes CONTENTS FEATURES 1 Phil Gramm and the Environment Greg Moses 1 Just What the Chamber Ordered Terry FitzPatrick 2 The Opening Rounds Dave Denison 12 Trial of “Pantex 7” in Doubt Terry FitzPatrick 14 The Resilient Right James Ridgeway DEPARTMENTS 5 Dialogue 15 Political Intelligence 22 Social Cause Calendar Books and the Culture: 19 Myth-Making For Fun and Profit Gary Pomerantz 20 Israel’s Long Arm Ginny Garrard Burnett Afterword: 23 Thank God for Oral Roberts Bill Helmer Pho to by Vic Hin te r la ng THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3