Once in a while the mainstream media hits the nail on the head and such is the case with a staff editorial in today's Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. This piece enclosed below in no uncertain terms urges the Legislature to return the surplus to taxpayers. Further, it points to the folly of simply shifting taxes and argues that rather than raise other taxes to pay for further property tax relief, the Legislature should simply utilize the surplus – the amount by which Texans have overpaid in taxes.
Moreover, the editorial concludes by warning that "If lawmakers do not start treating taxpayers right, a tax revolt could happen." The failure of Congress to control spending in Washington certainly led to sea change in the November 2006 election. Democrats in many races ran on the mantle of "fiscal responsibility." While longtime tax and spend liberal U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already punctured the Democrats' rhetorical facade of fiscal conservatism by floating a Social Security tax increase, the point is that voters in Texas and around the nation want lower taxes and spending restraint. With a record $14.3 billion surplus, even the media is recognizing that Texas politicians have no excuse for failing to deliver the goods that they sold to voters during the campaign.
Story last updated at 2:28 a.m. Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Don't just shift taxes – lower them
ANYONE WHO'S not concerned about the ways governments take and spend money from taxpayers should be.
Our perception of most of those in government who determine taxing and spending is they think of tax dollars as "their" money instead of what it really is: part of the hard-earned money of average Americans – in other words, "our" money.
Government – and we use that term to include federal, state and local governments together – has become a bloated, ever-growing monster that constantly demands to be fed with taxpayer dollars.
It now costs more to smoke cigarettes in Texas than it did last year. The Texas Legislature raised tobacco taxes from 41 cents a pack to $1.41.
That is a big financial hit for smokers, and it came about because legislators wanted to increase school funding and lower property taxes.
For those of us who do not smoke, there may be little sympathy at increasing another "sin" tax. But as government continues to grow, the monster needs to be fed.
Shifting taxes around from one source to another while government grows ever larger is no solution to the burdens shouldered by taxpayers. Governments should not be looking for new taxing opportunities – they should be looking for ways to lower taxes.
As an example of what we mean, let's say some genius in the Legislature comes up with the idea for a new tax on plumbing repairs in which a $10 tax surcharge is added to every service call by a plumber. And suppose the enticement to get support for the bill is that property taxes will be decreased.
If this fictional bill were passed, would anything be accomplished? No. Plumbers would not absorb the extra costs themselves. They would pass the new tax along to people who needed plumbing repairs – which, over time, would include everyone. Texas residents might pay slightly lower property taxes but they would have to make up those taxes elsewhere.
Governments like to talk about looking for new revenue streams, but all of the streams eventually will trickle down, in one way or another, to average taxpayers – who already are overburdened.
Trying to shift taxes around – such as lowering property taxes and adding business taxes – is deceptive. The taxes ultimately will be paid by the public either way.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs recently reported to the Legislature that the state has an budget surplus of $14.3 billion.
That is good news, but the problem is that legislators will think of that windfall as "their" money. We have no doubt that many of them have thought of ways to spend it.
The truth is that the surplus money belongs to the taxpayers of Texas, and that is exactly where it should go. How about a refund?
If lawmakers do not start treating taxpayers right, a tax revolt could happen. Legislators should look for ways to lower taxes, not ways to raise them or shift them around. And they should return budget surpluses to the people who own them – the residents of Texas – and who truly deserve to have their money back.