Ben Barnes Discusses How the Texas Constitution Shapes Taxation Policy
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Ben Barnes Discusses How the Texas Constitution Shapes Taxation Policy


[ Silence ]>>We’d been grasping
at where we were going to raise that much money. We had to raise a
significant amount of money and the Senator Crayton came
to me with 16 names on a piece of paper that said that the
Senate would pass a sales tax and let’s really clarify. Labor called it a sales tax
on food and it was a sales tax on food but it was a sales
tax on a lot of other things. Twenty-nine states
have sales tax that are straight
across the board. Now what was going to
happen on this sales tax, that anyone that made below
25,000 dollars a year was going to get back all the
sales taxes they paid. So you spend two-thirds of your
income or say 18,000 dollars and the sales tax at that time
was going to be 2 percent. So you were going to
get back 360 dollars at the end of the year. So it was not nearly
as regressive but what happened was a
lot of people believed that the public stood
up and rose up to the fact about
taxing food. And there was a lot
of opposition and labor organized a
lot of buses to come. But let me tell you
what really happened. We were putting sales tax
— beer under the sales tax and the beer lobby had an
inordinate amount of influence with the Speaker of the House. And they were able to
turn the House around. After the House leadership had
already met and agreed to this, they turned it around
and they voted against the sales
tax unanimously. And that’s when I made my
speech that I remember very well with the beer lobbyists in
the balcony of the Senate when I said that we were
going to have a tax bill and that tax bill is going to
include beer if we to stay here until snow is covering
the capital lawn. We will not go home
until we pass tax beer and we put a barrelage
tax on beer, increase the barrelage tax. And I’m very proud of that
but if people are opposed to an income tax and I am
not opposed to an income tax. If we could take an income
tax and eliminate 85 percent of the ad valorem
taxes, we have some of the highest ad valorem taxes. And there’s a way to do a fair
state income tax but people that scream about income taxes,
Texas is going to have to. If we’re not going to have an
income tax, we’re going to have to put the sales tax on
some other items whether it be services. There’s going to
have to be a lot of other items go
under the sales tax. Whether food goes
or not, I don’t know but there’s not any other way
to raise the amount of revenue. We’re talking about a deficit — this next session of the
legislature when they convene in January of 2003, we’re
talking about a deficit of over 6 billion dollars
and they’re going to have to. And they don’t need to spend
6 million dollars more money. They need to spend 12
billion and I’m not talking about wasting any money. And I’m not talking about
the political rhetoric that we’ve got to scale down
government and we’ve got to have a more businesslike
approach. That’s for the candidates
to talk about and that’s fine and good. And that’s fine and good but we
have some serious deficiencies in this state in our public
education system and we need to produce twice as many as
college people ready to go to college in 10 years
is what we’re doing now. And they’re going to have
to have at least 2 years of college just to meet
the job requirements that we’ve got right
here in Texas. And when we’ve got the
highest dropout rate in the United States
particularly among minorities and we’re incarcerating 1 out
of every 4 black men and 1 out of every 6 Hispanics
in the penitentiary. And those people are
grade school dropouts, we’re going to have do
something about that — about our public
education system. And it’s not only in Texas but
it’s throughout the country. And a lot of our inner cities
don’t have the proper buildings where children can
have the atmosphere in which they can learn. We’ve got to decrease
the class size. We’ve got to eliminate
a lot of the things that the teachers have to put
up with today and red tape and reporting features. We’ve just got a lot to be
done and we can’t continue. It’s just not going to work. There’s a clause
in the Constitution that says we have
to pay as you go. The legislature cannot convene. They cannot adjourn without
having balanced the budget and that’s a very healthy thing. And they’re going to have
to buckle their belts and find some political
courage in a box of cereal or wherever they’re going to
find it in a glass of water or something, and
really have the courage to go do what’s right for this
state whether it be Republican or Democrat. [ Silence ]

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