Hooray for Prop 4!
You’ve probably seen those t-shirts saying, “Keep Austin Weird.” Even though I don’t agree with the politics of the majority of its residents, I like Austin as a fun place to visit.
But when it does come to politics, those Austinites are truly one of a kind. Known for a burgeoning homeless population and skyrocketing property taxes, both the City of Austin and Travis County raised their 2019 tax rates, offsetting much of the benefit of House Bill 3’s reduction of school property taxes.
Travis County voters proved once again that they march to their own drummer, being the only county out of 254 in Texas to oppose Proposition 4, which would prohibit the Texas State Legislature from enacting an income tax.
Prop 4 opponents used arguments such as “It’s unfair; the rules are rigged against us in favor of the wealthy,” and “this proposition is unnecessary as the Texas Constitution already gives voters control over creation of a state income tax.”
However, supporters of Proposition 4 wanted to eliminate even the possibility of a state income tax from ever happening.
Perhaps they are aware of what happened in high tax states like Connecticut, which enacted a “temporary” flat income tax rate of 4.5% during the 1991 recession that “starved” the state of “needed” revenues. Since 1991, Connecticut has raised its income tax rate, made it more “progressive,” with a top rate of 7%.
During the most recent debate over increasing taxes in 2015 promoted by Democratic Governor Daniel Malloy, many Connecticut based companies threatened to leave the state if taxes were raised. General Electric, which had been based in Connecticut for generations, moved its headquarters and numerous jobs to neighboring Massachusetts, which had lowered its income tax rate.
Connecticut is an economic basket case. Its share of the national GDP has declined steadily over the past 30 years, while state spending has increased by 71% more than inflation.
Yet, population has only increased 9%, which means that people are fleeing this high tax state because they are tired of getting fleeced. You see, people move with their feet, and hordes of residents of the Nutmeg state have done exactly that.
In Texas, the state GOP endorsed Proposition 4, while Democrat leaders claimed to be officially neutral. But don’t let that fool you; two-thirds of Democrats in the State House and three-fourths in the Texas Senate opposed the bill that called for this proposition to be on the November ballot.
While they may not admit it, this was their way of saying, “We want flexibility of having an income tax should we turn Texas blue.”
The usual left-wing groups such as the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) and Progress Texas openly campaigned against Proposition 4, with CPPP paying for two mailouts to targeted Democrat voters. These mailing were clearly racially and gender driven and warned of “not giving in to the rich,” as they included pictures of mostly women and some children, all of whom were people of color.
This effort fell flat on its face. In the Rio Grande Valley, where over 90% of voters are Mexican-American, just over 70% of ballots cast backed Proposition 4, not far below the statewide support of 75%.
Suburban counties that Democrats are counting on to turn Texas blue, such as Collin and Denton, voted in support of Prop 4 by a 4-1 margin. Even Fort Bend County outside Houston, which went Democrat in 2018, voted 3-1 for Prop 4.
While Austin’s Travis County opposed Prop 4 by a 55-45 margin, the other five largest urban counties in Texas, which voted strongly for the “cool and hip” Beto O’Rourke, voted by a close to 2-1 margin for Prop 4. Apparently these voters didn’t think that an income tax is so cool or hip.
As you might expect, Kendall County, along with its Hill Country neighbors to the north and west, supported Prop 4 by a 5-1 margin. Rural Texas counties voted even more strongly for Prop 4. Income tax enthusiasts must be depressed over the final vote in McMullen County, where by 113-2 voters supported Prop 4. Truly, these big government spenders would probably have enough room to caucus in a phone booth.
Just because many of us oppose a state income tax doesn’t mean that we want to starve government. The GOP supports all the government we need, but not all the pie in the sky ideas that some interest groups would love to have.
When the Democrats say they want to turn Texas blue, that means they want spending and taxing levels similar to those of blue states. In this election, voters made their voices clearly heard by saying, “No thanks, and don’t mess with Texas.”