Texans have spoken loudly in opposition to a personal state income tax, but advocates of adding a prohibition of one into the Texas Constitution worry the awkward phrasing of the proposed amendment could have residents voting against their wishes.
Proposition 4 on the Nov. 5 ballot would amend the state constitution to prohibit the state from collecting taxes on people’s net income, according to an analysis of the bill placing it before voters. Under current law, a simple referendum on the ballot would allow a state income tax to be implemented.
Passage of Proposition 4 would mean voters would have to pass another amendment should the state ever want to implement an income tax in the future. That would require two-thirds of each chamber of the Legislature to put such a request before voters.
“The door has been left open for a state income tax, but this would really shut the door on income tax for Texas,” Tax Collector Ro’vin Garrett said.
The catch with this proposed amendment is how the ballot issue is phrased, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said. In effect, a “yes” on the amendment is a “no” to a state income tax.
“It is written awkwardly,” Bonnen said at an Oct. 2 luncheon in Lake Jackson. “If you want to not allow an income tax in Texas, you want to constitutionally prohibit an income tax in Texas … it is a vote yes. You vote yes for Proposition 4 if you want to ban an income tax in the state constitution.”
Voting no would leave a state income tax as an available option, he said.
Texas is one of seven states that does not levy a personal or corporate income tax.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based nonprofit, opposes the amendment because it would make it harder for future generations to make their own choices on how to go about financing education, transportation and health care, according to a release.
The CPPP said they believe there are already plenty of provisions in place to keep the state from imposing an income tax.
Garrett said she joins many other residents in opposing a state income tax and projects a majority of people to vote in favor of the amendment.
County Judge Matt Sebesta said he anticipates the proposition to pass with 75 percent or more of voters being in favor.
“I think Texans, across the board, are opposed to a state income tax and this would make it more difficult for an income tax to ever come into effect,” Sebesta said.
Early voting begins Monday and continues through Nov. 1. Election Day is Nov. 5.