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TX Sen. Shapleigh Predicts Senate Filibuster Over Sales Tax Increase

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

Predicting a filibuster on any tax bill that includes more than a half-cent increase in the state sales tax, Sen. Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso) today called the tax bill (HB 3) that passed out of a House committee this week the "Great Texas Tax Shift."

HB 3 would increase the state's sales tax from 6.25 cents per dollar to 7.25 cents, said Shapleigh. He said Texas already is one of the "Terrible 10" states with the "most regressive tax codes" in the country, and the increase proposed in HB 3 would make Texas have the highest state sales tax in the country.

HB 3 also would expand the sales tax to such services as auto repair and computer repair and to items such as bottled water. Shapleigh called that an "unprecedented expansion" of the sales tax base, saying that the auto repair tax alone would generate $425 million for the biennium.

Middle-class Texans already pay 32 percent more in sales tax than property tax, said the El Paso Democrat. Citing numbers from the State Comptroller's Office, Shapleigh said families in Texas with an annual income of under $21,000 are paying 11.8 percent of their income on state and local taxes today, while wealthier Texans pay only 4.2 percent.

Shapleigh said the House proposal would cut property taxes and shift that burden to the sales tax. He noted, however, that the property tax reduction would be only from $1.50 to $1.23 in the first year of the biennium and then to $1.12 in the second year. He said a family of four with an annual income of $50,000 pays $1,455 in property taxes and $1,917 in general sales tax and gas and motor vehicle sales tax - nearly one-third more than property taxes.

Thus, he said of the HB 3 proposal, "Only the wealthiest Texans will see any tax relief. Nearly everyone else will get a tax hike." HB 3, he said, is "not an acceptable option."

Shapleigh said families that make up to $64,000 per year would see a net tax increase if HB 3 were to pass. Property taxes would go down, he said, but sales tax would go up - with tax hikes going to the middle class. The greatest tax relief, he said, would go to those making more than $140,000 per year.

Citing a Houston Chronicle analysis of Gov. Rick Perry's tax proposal, Shapleigh said the revenue increase would be $5 billion from sales and "sin taxes." He said a family of four renting a house with an annual income of $35,000 would pay $72 more in taxes. A family of four that owns a $300,000 home and earns $150,000 annually would get a $567 tax reduction.

Pointing to a chart labeled "You Get What You Pay For" that addresses public education in Texas, Shapleigh said Texas currently ranks 50th in high school graduation rates, 48th in SAT scores, 46th in secondary teachers with degrees in the subjects they teach and 32nd in average teacher salaries.

Shapleigh said the focus should not be on tax cuts for the wealthy, but on success in Texas public schools. Citing state demographic figures, the lawmaker said that in 20 years Texas family incomes could decline by $6,000, marking the first time in the state's history to see "the next generation less prosperous than today."

The Legislature should focus on the "real issue," he said, that of educating Texas' children with a "fair tax system." That system is not fair, said Shapleigh, when it gives tax relief to the wealthiest Texans and imposes more taxes on the middle class.

Shapleigh said he does not think the Senate will include a one-cent sales tax increase in its version of a tax bill, noting such an increase is almost guaranteed to face a filibuster. He said the Senate is taking "a very different approach" than the House - more a mix of business taxes and less sales tax. He said what came out of the House is a mix of increased sales and consumption taxes. "The House approach is to have consumers pay more," he said.

It is the job of the Texas Legislature, and not the Supreme Court, to determine what it is that makes Texas' public education system rank among the lowest in the country, "And fix it," said Shapleigh.