The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Decent People Pay Taxes

By Michael May, February 14, 2003, News

About 1,000 demonstrators from across Texas stood in front of the state Capitol on Feb. 10 and demanded that the Legislature raise their taxes.

Yup. That's right. R-A-I-S-E. Taxes. In Texas.

These weren't rabble-rousing communists doing their best to defile everything that is good and wholesome about the Lone Star State. They were working-class people facing a harsh reality that is about to get harsher. With the state budget in a $9.9 billion hole, legislators are busy cutting fat from such bloated state programs as, you know, education and children's health care (which, by national standards, are already woefully underfunded in Texas). The participants in the rally had spent the previous couple days meeting and discussing their agenda at a conference held by the Industrial Areas Foundation, a network of community groups.

Pamela Gray, the principal of Maplewood Elementary and member of Austin Interfaith (the local chapter of the IAF), participated in the decision making. "It was not an easy decision," says Gray. "Many of the parents were extremely ambivalent about the prospect of more taxes, especially an income tax. But when it comes down to choosing between cutting programs for our children and raising taxes, the decision is clear. We must raise taxes."

Several legislators addressed the rally, including Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, and Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso. "When children come to the Capitol," Shapleigh said, looking down from the podium at a group of elementary school students, "and ask us to please give them some hope, then you know something is wrong in Texas. A state that values cuts over kids is sentencing our children to jail. And then jail becomes the new safety net. Let's be clear; a tax cut is nothing more than a tax shift to those that can least afford it."

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