On January 13, the True Texas Project hosted a Gubernatorial Forum for Republican Candidates for Governor. Among the attendees were former Republican State Sen. Don Huffines, former Florida Republican Congressman and former Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West, and conservative humorist Chad Prather. The incumbent Governor, Greg Abbott was not in attendance.
Several questions were asked as a part of the forum including some pertaining to property taxes, a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying, and government spending. The following is a summary of the responses on the topic of property taxes and part one of three in this series:
“How do you propose dealing with the current property tax system? Would you embrace a plan such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s to increase the tax base and move to a consumption tax?”
The first to answer was Chad Prather. He said,
“First of all, our founding fathers would be rolling over in their graves, if they knew that people were having to rent their property for the rest of their lives. Property tax is not only wrong it is the most immoral form of taxation that anyone could imagine. If you read the Old Testament, God wouldn’t tax his own people in terms of their land, it was a land of promise, it was an inheritance to their children and their children’s children. If Israelites 6000 years ago could figure out how to navigate around property taxes then surely the greatest conservative fiscal minds in the state of Texas in the 21st century should be able to figure out a plan as well.”
“We have got to cut state spending, We have got to use that to buy down this tax debt. We need to incentivize people to go out there in the private sector to do the things we have expected the government to do over the years in a mediocre fashion. So when we incentivize that, it is going to stop us from being taxed in the form that we have grown accustomed to. It has grown through the roof. As Texans, we need to lead the rest of the nation in abolishing this immoral tax.”
Allen West was next to answer,
“Texas has the sixth highest property taxes in the United States of America. When you study and understand the property tax system it is really based upon the philosophies of Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto and his planks. It’s a progressive tax system and the second thing that he talked about was the elimination of private property rights. Here in the state of Texas you can pay off your land, you can pay off your mortgage, but you can never own your home. There are three different approaches we have to have. First and foremost, I sat on the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission back in 2016. When you look at the fact that we have an agency…a commission that is looking at sunsetting government agencies and programs, I would ask you how many of those actual government agencies and programs actually do get sunsetted? Actually get told to go away? So number one, I want to go back 15 to 20 years and look at all of these sunset advisory commission recommendations and make sure that are actually implemented, because that is how you find the savings to start paying down your property tax relief.The other thing that we have to do is we have to move the Texas state government away from what is called a baseline budget system which means that every single budget cycle they start from the previous baseline and they increase the spending off of that.When they talk about cutting spending, they are talking about cutting the rate of the increase, not actually cutting spending. That’s what we have to change. What you do in your homes, what you do in your businesses is what is called a zero-based budget system. Every single budget cycle, every agency has to once again validate its existence, validate any programs that it wants to have, old and definitely ofcourse new. So those are the two ways, when we look at savings, we can buy down. And I agree, we have to move to a consumption-based tax system because why? Prior to 1917, in the United States of America, when we created the personal income tax, which was supposed to be temporary in nature, we did taxation in America by consumption base. Taxation, they call it the FAIR Tax, should be based on what you are going out there and purchasing. One of the key things we have to do is talk to people, economists, to make sure it is not a regressive tax system against our lower-income tax levels, so that way you don’t have to pay out these rebate checks to these people. So that’s the plan, number one, look at the SUnset Advisory Recommendation over the past 15-20 years, Number two, move from a baseline budget to a zero-based budget system, and number three, get this consumption-based tax program implemented, which we will do in the 88th legislative session in 2023, and we will get it on the ballot for you to vote on to be part of the Texas state constitution in November 2023.”
Don Huffines was last to answer the question,
“The answer to the question is yes, I will work with TPPF, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, I’m taking it a step further, they talked about just eliminating the M&O on school taxes. This has been a priority of my campaign from the very beginning. It has been up on my website since the second of May. I’ve worked on it for years. Let me just set the table for you. As these gentlemen just said, everything you see, when you are going home tonight, driving to work tomorrow, everything you see is owned by the government. Your land, your ranch, your farm, your business, your home, they own it all. All you get to do is rent it from them, and guess what, you don’t even have a lease! You don’t even know what the rent is going to be! This is a terrible way to fund the government! It’s a plank in our party platform to do away with it. There is a lot of paths, my path is very specific. I’ve got Excel spreadsheets 6-inches thick on this. This is a math problem. It’s very doable, it’s not political rhetoric. This is going to happen. My plan is it is going to take 8 to 10 years to phase it out, you’re going to get a chance to vote on it, it is going to be a constitutional amendment on whatever plan we get out, so you can weigh in on it, you can decide if we want to move some to sales tax or whatever it is you can go yay or nay on it. We are never going to have an income tax and we are going to keep local governments fully funded and how we are going to do that is we are taking a surplus in revenues from the state of Texas and we are going to buy down property tax with it, then we are going to move some over to sales tax. Let me give you an example, the Comptroller just put out the numbers the other day. He thinks, the next biennium we are going to have a $27 billion surplus in the state of Texas. We can use a lot of that money. My goal is to take 90% of the state’s surplus and use it to buy down property tax about $6 to $7 billion dollars, we get about $68 billion on property tax. We are replacing the money that local political subdivisions get from property tax, that money comes in from the state of Texas.”
Incumbent Governor Greg Abbott
Abbott was not in attendance at the forum but as he has been elected since 2015, he has opined on the subject of property taxes several times and has a record by which we can review.
He recently unveiled what he calls the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to address the issue of property taxes. Though under his leadership the state legislature has attempted to reform the property tax system, it is important to note that they have only limited the rate of increase of property taxes themselves as well as only offer additional exemptions to portions of the property tax for special classes of Texans.