Thursday, March 09, 2006

TTRC Holds Final Hearings

The John Sharp headed crony commission, better known as the Texas Tax Reform Commission (TTRC) is holding it's final hearings this week and next. Hearings were held this past Monday in San Antonio and Wednesday in Houston and the final one will be next Monday in Arlington.

There are several things the TTRC has done and I'm not really sure it's what the purpose of the commission was. First, it showed every Texan that's been attentive that most businesses and corporations have been getting away with paying little or no taxes for quite some time. So that's who we have to blame for those high property taxes, well them and the politicians that allowed this to continue. Not to mention all those tax abatements corporations get when they bring their business to Texas. Second the TTRC has also reinforced what we already knew, we've got basically three choices. Raise business taxes, raise sales taxes -– or some combination of the two -– or institute a state income tax. The combination of raising the business/franchise tax and raising sales taxes is what the legislature and the current state leadership and their lobbyists couldn't agree on last year. Oh boy, meetings all over the state, cronies come together and all we get is this? What is it that will now make businesses and their lobbyists more receptive top paying higher taxes? Will they suddenly have a soft spot in their hearts to pony up money to pay their fair share to educate their workforce?

This may be a little early since it will be a couple more weeks until the final report is released but from what John Sharp has been saying, for a while now, a business and sales tax increase appears to be coming. Maybe I've been too critical and they'll bring something entirely different to the table. One of the good things, I think, the TTRC has done is shone a light, and not a bad one, on a state income tax. In Texas, because of the way one would have to be implemented, it is the fairest way to solve our tax problem in Texas and bring our public schools back to prominence.

Here's an exchange from Wednesday's meeting in Houston between a commission member and a Rabbi that I thought was interesting:
A number of speakers were members of The Metropolitan Organization, a coalition of Houston congregations and other organizations, which pledge its dedication to "ordinary citizens,"” who argued that a higher sales tax is regressive, or hits the pocketbooks of lower-income people more than others.

Rabbi Brenner Glickman of Houston's Congregation Beth Israel, saying he wanted to leave commissioners with a "theological message,"” referred them to an Exodus story about the construction of a tabernacle. Glickman said people who could not offer cattle for the effort were asked to offer two doves; those who could not do that were asked to donate bread.

"I am not here to testify that God is opposed to (an increased) sales tax, but I believe its true,"” Glickman said to the laughter of the audience.

Commissioner William Blaylock, tax director for Texas Instruments in Dallas, joked that Glickman did not mention a Genesis story in which ancient Israel took one-third of all the grain throughout the country, which he called the "first gross income tax."”
Only time will tell but from what I've seen during this process and what is coming not much has changed. There's a big difference between getting and unelected commission to agree on this than there is in getting a majority in the legislature to agree.


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