In re eliminating Property Taxes

The Texas Tribune reports that State Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Harris County), the Republican nominee for Comptroller, is openly advocating for both abolishing the property tax and replacing it solely with a consumption tax. As the stats come out, assuming that Hegar would want the increase in sales tax to completely offset the abolition of the property tax, the new sales tax would end up being between 20 and 25%, compared to a current Statewide rate of 6.25% that often comes out to 8.25% because of municipal surcharges.

The tactics have caused Mike Collier, the Democratic nominee for Comptroller, to gain some traction among the politically observant. Collier has been making the obvious point that a sales tax upwards of 25% is simply unsustainable, and the major cuts in our already no-frills government that would inevitably occur without a major tax hike elsewhere would be simply too devastating for the State to handle. Still, even after going through this bad press, Hegar is not backing down on his inane position. Admittedly, he now has chosen to take the point of view that the tax should be phased out instead of being ripped off like a bandaid, but the position is still misguided nonetheless.

In a recent interview with the Killeen Daily Herald on this subject, Hegar was quoted saying: “As long as we pay taxes we have to ask, do we really own our property?” The point is actually quite reasonable, and should prompt a discussion on the future of taxation in this State. However, advocating the eliminate the entire mechanism because of that drawback is one of the most sophomoric suggestions I have heard in a very long time.

There are a lot of ideas for property relief, including reducing the potency of liens for seniors who own their property free and clear, but the system still generally works. We have higher property taxes because we do not have an income tax. And before any Republicans accuse me of being some tax-and-spend liberal who just wants to institute the dreaded income tax (I don’t), I simply consider myself a realist who understands we cannot continuing taxing ourselves like minimalists while spending like people who enjoy government programs. That means we need at least one painful taxing scheme, be it Income, Property or Sales. Income tax is bad for business, but Sales tax is particularly nasty when one considers its regressive nature and just how disproportionately it affects poor people.

Of course, as the Tribune article points out, the Comptroller cannot do something –like do away with the property tax– unilaterally. He will need the support of the Legislature and most major alterations would require a constitutional amendment (2/3rds majority of each Legislative house and a majority vote of the people). Still, the issue is providing no shortage of fodder for the Democrat, who hitherto has been rather obscure in his campaign.

Collier has been making some waves recently on this issue, but November is still a long ways away.

Burnt Orange Report, Eye on Williamson and Off the Kuff have more.

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