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Constitutional ban on state income tax to go before Texas voters

By Michael Carroll

Texas may maintain the state's lauded absence of a state income tax with a constitutional amendment.

Deputy Secretary of State Joe Esparza took part in a drawing ceremony last week that established the ballot order of 10 proposed constitutional amendments approved by the state legislature. Proposition 4, the income tax prohibition, was spearheaded by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano.

Proposition 4 would replace what’s called the “Bullock Amendment,” adopted in 1993 and named after former Comptroller Bob Bullock. That measure prevents state lawmakers from imposing a personal income tax unless a majority of voters approve. And under the amendment, even if an income tax were approved one day, two-thirds of the revenue generated would be used to reduce property taxes, with the balance going to education.

The November ballot measure is titled, “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”

Dale K. Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers & Research Association, said the TTRA would likely not take a position on Proposition 4.

“We sort of already have a provision that restricts the ability of the legislature to impose a personal income tax,” Craymer told The Center Square. “I’m not sure the Leach amendment does anything much different.”

Under the current constitutional framework, the legislature could put a referendum to enact a personal income tax before voters with a simple majority vote. But with Proposition 4’s language, the only path to a future income tax would be a two-thirds vote of the legislature, which would be needed to put such a constitutional change before voters.

Even under the current scenario, though, voter sentiment among the 28 million people who call Texas home is firmly against the imposition of a personal income tax, according to Craymer.

“We don’t have the public support that would allow it to happen,” he said. “We’d have to have 29 million Californians move here before you would ever see any public interest in passing an income tax.”

Craymer expects the amendment to pass easily on Nov. 5.

“I expect it will be incredibly popular politically,” he said. “This is probably a little bit stronger barrier than what we currently have.”

Texas is one of seven states that do not tax personal income.

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