For some childish reason, the theme song to the movie High Noon keeps playing in my head as I think about today’s upcoming House debate on sales tax cuts. Senator Jane Nelson is like the lonely sheriff going from the meeting hall to the saloon looking for someone to help her fight for property tax cuts. House Ways and Means Chair Dennis Bonnen is the bad hombre arriving on the noon train, holsters full of sales tax cuts, with his posse of tax-cutting Republicans backing him up for the final showdown. (Update: The House ended up giving initial approval to its sales-tax cut plan today by a vote of 141-0.)
Off to one side, tea party groups are backing Nelson, as is Michael Quinn Sullivan and his Empower Texans. His group ran one of those Internet surveys over the weekend asking whether Texans would prefer sales tax cuts or property tax cuts. Surprisingly, the first return was overwhelmingly for the House sales tax cuts.
Empower Texans “corrected” the posting, blaming the original results on technical problems. Here’s the revised version of the Empower Texans survey:
Sullivan, in an analysis, called the sales tax cuts “compelling,” but makes the argument for the Senate’s property tax cut plan as more in keeping with the Republican Party of Texas platform.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Nelson and the rest of the Senate tax-cutters made one mistake as they designed their tax cuts for the homesteaders and the folks who run the general store. They left out the ranchers with the big spreads.
Not to be outdone, the consortium of the big spreads launched their own web site, called taxrelieftexas.com. It’s being paid for by the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Association of Manufacturers, the Texas Restaurant Association, the Texas Retailers Association, the Texas Oil & Gas Association, the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association, the Texas Chemical Council and the Association of Electric Companies of Texas.
You see, homestead tax breaks and franchise tax breaks for small business, as in the Senate plan, don’t do much for the refineries, or the commercial real estate owners or those payers of the oil and gas severance taxes that have filled up the Rainy Day Fund. So here’s what the big spreads are saying on the web west of the picket wire:
Robert T. Garrett of The Dallas Morning News reported on an analysis showing sales tax cuts will be of most benefit to those earning $147,000 a year or more. The tax equity note on the Bonnen sales tax bill, HB 31, shows business would receive a $602.7 million tax reduction in state fiscal year 2017 by lowering the sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 5.95 percent, while households would receive a $867 million tax cut. The Senate plan, SB 1, would save homeowners an average of about $210 a year by increasing the homestead exemption, but it also would increase the state’s share of financing public education by about $1.6 billion a year by 2020.
The high sheriff of them all, Governor Greg Abbott, is leaning toward those property taxes and yet also has declared himself neutral for the moment. However the dust settles, Abbott can claim victory by signing it, vetoing it or calling a special session to give him tax cuts. There was a blow-up at the leadership breakfast last Wednesday, as first reported on Burkablog. It usually takes something like that to get things moving.
To conclude the corny western movie theme of this tax cut item, the story awaits the action of the House today and how the two chambers come together to solve the impasse between the homesteaders and the ranchers. In the meantime, this seems appropriate: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”