Texas Needs an Income Tax

RECEIVED Tue., May 11, 2004

Dear Editor:
   No pamphlet in American history has been more inflammatory than one written in 1776 by Thomas Paine. Titled Common Sense, it pointed out the hypocrisy of remaining loyal to the British crown and at the same time fighting British troops on the colonists' own soil. His argument was logical and compelling. The effect was dramatic. In a few months Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and a new nation was born.
   Today Texas stands at its own crossroads. On the one hand it can be considered a great state. Webster's Dictionary defines "great" as "much higher in some quality or degree" and "much above the ordinary or average." Does Texas measure up to those standards? We can be proud of its glorious history, its ranching and agriculture that fed and continue to feed the nation, widespread manufacturing, booming high tech, and three flagship universities.
   On the other hand negative aspects damage the image of greatness: a state government that meets only 38% of its constitutional obligation to fund public education, leaving the remainder to be funded by school districts and counties through increasingly higher property taxes. Furthermore, the state depends on a regressive sales tax to provide 50% of its entire revenue.
   Finally, in social services and the salaries of employees funded by tax dollars, we find Texas' standing in comparison to the other states to be embarrassingly low: 50th in the percentage of those without health care; 49th as the most desirable state in which to raise children, among the 10 worst in all factors relating to teenage pregnancy; 38th in high school dropout rate; 39th in funding per pupil in higher education; 38th in public school teachers' pay; 45th in funding for public libraries; and 45th in nursing home funding.
   No Texan can be proud of these standings. Common sense tells us the state needs more revenue. How much longer do we boast of a balanced budget just to avoid a tax raise? Texas must adopt a progressive personal income tax, a deductible item on the federal tax return. Is there any alternative? When approved by the voters and enacted into law the income tax would provide the funds needed to finance public education and other purposes and relieve property owners of the high taxes they now pay.
   Common sense tells us to adopt the state income tax to keep Texas from sliding to a lower level of respectability and accountability to its people.
E.V. Niemeyer Jr.
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