State income tax, disaster relief funding to be decided in November election

Texas Politics

This article has been updated to reflect ten constitutional amendments on the ballot. A previous version of this article and the attached video reference eight.

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As state lawmakers left the Capitol on the last day of session, they passed on new measures for Texans to vote on in November.

Voters will have the chance to enact ten changes to the Texas Constitution, ranging from flood infrastructure funding, more money for state cancer research projects, and deciding whether to prohibit a state income tax.

All of these ideas received support from two-thirds of each chamber in the Texas legislature.

Since this was the first legislative session after Hurricane Harvey left lasting damage in the Houston area and along the coastal bend, lawmakers focused attention on flood mitigation. This led to a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a flood infrastructure fund. The fund would allow the Texas Water Development Board to pay for drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.

This comes as lawmakers created the framework for a statewide flood plan to be established by 2024.

Chairman of the Senate Water and Rural Affairs committee, Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, said the state’s investment in water flood funding was “a whole new way to look at how we prepare and try to prevent floods going forward.”

Lawmakers sent a package of bills relating to flood mitigation and water issues to the Governor’s desk, including legislation that would reform best practices for state officials, ensures state and federal funding flows properly. Perry authored SB 8, one of the bills in that legislative package.

“[SB8] starts coordinating all these plans and processes because what we’ve had in the past is this county fixed its problem by moving the water onto the county neighboring it,” Perry said. “So this is a coordinating oversight with maps and ensuring a big, 10,000-foot view.”

Another of the constitutional amendments on the ballot in November is a measure to allow the state to increase the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas by $3 billion.

“CPRIT saves lives,” cancer survivor Rebecca Esparza said in April as she came to the Capitol to talk to lawmakers about cancer research funding. “CPRIT saved my life and I’m counting on it to save other Texans’ lives as well.”

“We’re the place where some of the most incredible, important cancer research is going on right now. I look forward to many more things happening,” said State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond.

“I really see us as being at the forefront in terms of cancer research, which should translate to cures and certainly preventive measures,” he added. 

Texas voters will also choose whether to allocate 100% of the state’s sporting goods sales tax to state parks. Lawmakers dedicated money from that tax to state parks in 1993, but since then they have re-routed portions of that money to other budget items.

“We have to plan for the future,” State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said in a January press conference. “The currrent park system cannot support the millions we have here in Texas.”

Voters will also consider a proposal to ban a state income tax on individuals.

State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, authored the plan in the House.

“Texans know how to spend their hard-earned money better than the government and that’s why we’re putting a constitutional amendment on their ballots this November prohibiting a state income tax,” he tweeted earlier this month.

The proposal was met with criticism by Senate liberals, who explained they did not think Texans wanted a state income tax on individuals, but they argued it could have unintended consequences affecting a business tax that raises billions of dollars for public schools each year. The resolution passed 22-9, with South Texas Democrats Chuy Hinojosa and Eddie Lucio, and Fort Worth’s Beverly Powell in favor of the ban.

One ballot measure would make it easier for law enforcement animals to be transferred to their handlers after the animals retire. Lawmakers also placed a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would double the funding the land board can transfer from the permanent fund to the available school fund each year. Also on the list, a proposal to establish the Economically Distressed Areas Program, which according to a state analysis, provides financial assistance for projects to develop water and wastewater services in economically distressed areas where those services or facilities don’t meet minimum state standards.

Voters will also decide on whether to create a temporary property tax exemption for certain political subdivisions for property owners in areas declared by the governor as disaster areas. Another would allow the state to exempt precious metals held in a depository from being taxed as property, and rounding out the list: an amendment to loosen restrictions for municipal judges.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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