Chad’s Morning Brief: Texas House Wants to Cut Sales Tax Instead of Property Tax, Pot Debate Begins at the Capitol, and Other Top Stories
Here is your Morning Brief for April 9, 2015.
Tax Cut Debate
The House plan to cut taxes looks a bit different than the plan from the Texas Senate. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Senate have both been vocal in wanting to cut property taxes. Members of the Texas House rolled out a plan yesterday that would cut the sales tax and the franchise tax according to the Texas Tribune.
House Ways and Means Chairman Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, laid out a plan centered on cutting the state sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 5.95 percent. It would be the first state sales tax rate cut in Texas' history, Bonnen said. He estimated that the rate cut would reduce state revenues by $2.3 billion over the next two years and save the average family of four $172 per year. Bonnen made clear that he believed his approach is better than the Senate plan, which would increase homestead exemptions to lower local school property taxes.
“We should be cutting taxes that provide the greatest return to our economy and our Texas taxpayers, and we believe the plan we are providing you today is the one that does that,” Bonnen said.
Bonnen also proposed more than $2 billion in cuts to the franchise tax rate, largely through a 25 percent across-the-board cut to that tax.
At $4.9 billion, Bonnen’s tax cut plan is bigger than the Senate’s $4.4 billion proposal, which would cut property taxes by more than $2 billion, rather than targeting the sales tax. That measure is estimated to provide the average homeowner $206 in savings in the first year. Because the property tax is a local tax, the Senate plan would have to pay school districts to cover their losses in local tax revenue.
The question is now who will go for what. The House believes their tax cut plan is much better than the Senate's. The Senate would probably disagree with that and they would say their plan is better. We know that Governor Abbott wants to see significant tax relief, but which plan does he prefer right now?
Expect a big battle going forward.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the issue of marijuana legalization was front and center in Austin yesterday.
The proposal most supported by pot backers would make possession of one ounce or less a citable offense rather than a criminal one.
Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, the bill’s author and vice chairman of the House panel hearing the proposals, said decriminalization is a smart approach.
“All around we could have a better system that uses our resources a lot wiser,” Moody said. “We won’t be housing inmates for these low level offenses. We’ll just be citing them, allowing them to just appear in court at a later date and pay a fine.”
Currently, possessing less than than two ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, landing offenders with a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. More than 70,000 people were arrested in 2013 for marijuana possession according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Proposals by Houston Democrats Rep. Gene Wu and Rep. Harold Dutton would reduce the penalties for small possessions to Class C misdemeanors, but that’s still a criminal charge.
Heather Fazio, Texas political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said the effects of a criminal arrest go beyond a stint in jail.
“There’s consequences of having a criminal record with regard to access to education,employment and housing,” Fazio said.
Dutton said if Texas makes possession a citable offense “we may as well just go ahead and make it legal.”
“You’re just simply saying people who are able to afford it can smoke marijuana as if it were legalized,” Dutton said.
A bill by Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, would eliminate the need to reduce penalties altogether by removing mention of marijuana from state statutes, making the drug legal by default.
His is the only proposal to completely legalize marijuana, and by not proposing a new system of regulation, it differs from legalization efforts in other states.
Will any of these bills pass? No. But I do think it is good that lawmakers are debating these things.
Other Must Read Links:
These and many more topics coming up on today’s edition of The Chad Hasty Show. Tune in mornings 8:30-11am on News/Talk 790 KFYO, streaming online at kfyo.com, and now on your iPhone and Android device with the radioPup App. All guest interviews can be heard on our KFYO YouTube page after the show and online at kfyo.com.