Monday, October 19, 2015

2015 Texas Constitutional Amendments Conservative/Libertarian Guide

"Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established."
Proverbs 16:3

Early voting began today for seven state of Texas Constitutional Amendments and various local questions around the state, Cahnman's Musings endorses the following positions:

State of Texas Constitutional Amendments:
  • Prop. 1 -- FOR -- While the 84th legislature didn't do much to reign in property taxes, it did do this.  Prop 1 would increase the homestead exemption for school district taxes from $15,000 to $25,000.  It's not much, but it does move in the right direction.
  • Prop. 2 -- NEUTRAL -- Prop 2 illustrates the peril of trying to carve out favorable tax treatment for certain groups, even groups we like.  In 2011, the legislature created (and the voters passed) an exemption from property taxes for the surviving spouses of 100% disabled combat veterans.  Unfortunately, the 2011 amendment included language that limited that benefit to veterans who died after 2010.  Prop. 2 would remove the 'after 2010' proviso.

    On the one hand, this epitomizes what happens every time you try to get cute with the tax code; on the other hand, the 2011 exemption isn't going anywhere, so it makes sense to remove the arbitrary cut off date.

    Flip a coin.
  • Prop. 3 -- FOR -- Prop 3 would remove the requirement that statewide officeholders (except the Governor) reside in Austin; in a world with modern information technology, we see no need to require statewide officials to reside in Austin.
  • Prop. 4 -- AGAINST -- When in doubt, vote no; we can't put our finger on it, but something about this proposition STINKS.  Prop. 4 would allow "charitable foundations" of professional sports teams to conduct "charitable raffles" for the benefit of said foundations.  To be honest, this just wreaks of the type of insider based cronyism that runs rampant at the capitol, the fact that Charlie Geren is the primary author of the amendment doesn't increase our confidence.
  • Prop. 5 -- FOR -- [UPDATED] Prop. 5 would allow small counties to maintain roads constructed with private funds if doing so makes sense locally.  Living in Austin, this website has no desire how to instruct local entities to maintain roads we'll never see. We can find no reason why letting local counties make this decision for themselves would be considered objectionable.
    • Correction: This is what we originally wrote for Prop. 5.  Apparently, we got the intent of the amendment backwards.  We apologize, though either way we see it as a matter of local control.
  • Prop. 6 -- FOR -- Prop. 6 would add another level of protection should anti-Second Amendment forces or hardcore environmentalists come after Texas.  In a sane world, the second amendment would be all the protection we need.  Of course, we don't live in a sane world.

    While we commend the 84th Texas legislature for taking this proactive action on the Second Amendment, we wish they'd extended similar courtesy on issues related to religious liberty and the First Amendment.
  • Prop. 7 -- NEUTRAL -- Prop. 7 would take a portion of the motor vehicle sales tax and dedicate it to transportation funding.  Transportation funding in Texas can best be characterized as robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Prop 7 would rob John to pay Peter.

    The fundamental problem with transportation funding in Texas is that 25% of the gas tax is diverted to education.  Prop. 7 does NOTHING to fix that.  It just creates yet another "dedicated" account.

    And that's before we get into the waste and bloat at TxDOT that the legislature hasn't lifted a finger to change.

    On the other hand, we have legitimate transportation needs, and Prop. 7 might be the best we can do given political reality.

    Once again...flip a coin.
Noteworthy Local Issues:
  • City of Pflugerville Prop. 1 -- AGAINST -- We haven't had a ton of time to look into this one, but multiple sources we trust inform us that this plan to float $10 million to build an animal shelter is a corrupt boondoggle.
  • TRAVIS COUNTY Prop. 1 -- AGAINST  -- And this is the Travis County Courthouse.  It doesn't take a genius to know where we stand on this one.  Travis County is claiming this thing will cost $287 MILLION, though somewhere between $400 and 600 MILLION is probably where the final price tag will end up once you factor in interest and cost overruns.  The current proposal doesn't have enough parking.  It adds more cars to the rush hour bottleneck.  Moving the location to East Austin would save between 25 and 50% of the cost.  Everyone can oppose this thing for their own reason, but Travis County has said the only way they will consider a better alternative is if the current proposal fails.

Bottom Line: The State of Texas constitutional amendments are relatively inoffensive, but we wouldn't trust anything any local government is doing in this type of low turnout election.  Early voting began today and runs through next Friday, election day proper is Tuesday, Nov. 3.  These low turnout elections are when your vote REALLY counts; get informed about what's on your personal LOCAL ballot and go vote!!!

1 comment:

  1. Curious minds want to know... ;-)
    What does Cahnman's Musings think of the Libertarian Party of Texas's reason for opposing TX Prop. 1?

    Proposition 1, SJR 1: Oppose

    "The constitutional amendment increasing the amount of the residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation for public school purposes from $15,000 to $25,000, providing for a reduction of the limitation on the total amount of ad valorem taxes that may be imposed for those purposes on the homestead of an elderly or disabled person to reflect the increased exemption amount, authorizing the legislature to prohibit a political subdivision that has adopted an optional residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation from reducing the amount of or repealing the exemption, and prohibiting the enactment of a law that imposes a transfer tax on a transaction that conveys fee simple title to real property."

    Though this proposition would appear to reduce the property taxes on homeowners, there is a provision for the State to hold school districts harmless for property tax losses, effectively shifting the tax burden from local school districts to State taxpayers. This legislation would require the School Districts to basically create two tax bills. If the proposition fails a supplemental tax bill would be sent. This does far more harm than good creating confusion for home owners who pay their own taxes and for mortgage companies which pay taxes from escrow.

    LPTexas is universally in favor of tax reduction, but this bill does not reduce taxes. It merely shifts the tax burden from school districts (a government entity) to private citizens.


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