A bill banning the state from imposing an income tax on hard-working Texans passed the Texas Senate on Monday after being held up by Democrat senators. Democrats decided to hold out and prevent the bill from being passed with the necessary two-thirds support to send it before voters this November until late into Monday evening, with the bill finally passing around 11 p.m.
The measure ultimately passed with 21 ayes and 10 nays to third reading and passing 22-9 on final passage. The advancement of the bill is a contrast on the day for taxpayers who saw the Texas House reject efforts to pass protections for taxpayers from tax-funded lobbying.
Democrat State Sen. Royce West (Dallas) offered an amendment to House Joint Resolution 38, authored by Plano Republican State Rep. Jeff Leach, that would change the language of the bill and would strike the words “natural persons” from the Texas Constitution. The designation would leave only the word “individuals,” which would include corporate organizations.
The dispute arises from the bill’s fiscal note, which indicates that the bill could have the effect of giving cause to lawsuits against the state regarding the collection of revenues derived of the franchise tax.
However, the Texas House passed HJR 38 as written and favorably reported by the Senate Finance Committee with the bipartisan support of 100 state representatives on May 9 when it cleared the chamber.
Republican State Sen. Pat Fallon (Little Elm) was the bill’s sponsor in the Senate. Following postponement of the bill and reconsideration, Fallon told West the amendment would kill the bill based on conversations he had with Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. He successfully encouraged members to reject the amendment before it fell 19-12.
Being a change to the state constitution, the bill requires two-thirds approval of both chambers, 100 ayes in the Texas House, and 21 ayes in the Texas Senate. With Republicans tapped out at 19 members in their majority in the upper chamber, the bill would need the support of two Democrats in order to reach the November ballot and the consideration of voters.
The three Democrats who would ultimately join every Republican on the measure were State Sens. Chuy Hinojosa (McAllen), Eddie Lucio Jr. (Brownsville), and Beverly Powell (Burleson). Powell reportedly wavered in her support throughout the day prior to them clearing the threshold with one more vote than needed.
If passed, the proposed constitutional change would then need to pass on the 2019 November ballot presented to voters. Voters should be expected to adopt such a proposal following a poll two lawmakers conducted earlier this month that revealed voters across the state, regardless of party affiliation, rejected the concept of giving the government more money and believe they are taxed enough already.
The results of the survey may have led lawmakers to ultimately consider a property tax “swap” earlier this session that would have resulted in raising the state’s sales tax by a penny to generate an estimated $4-6 billion in additional revenue for the state.
Lawmakers were told to expect nearly $10 billion in surplus revenue this session as is, a record for the state.