Early voting for the Nov. 5 election began Monday in Atascosa County and runs through Nov. 1.
Voter turnout in these “off year” elections is notoriously low statewide in Texas. In 2017, the last time Texas voted on constitutional amendments only 6,099 Atascosa County individuals voted out of a possible 26,429. As of today, there are 27,500 registered voters in Atascosa County. The Atascosa County Elections office reported as of Tuesday that a total of 165 voters (.06 percent) have turned out to vote.
On this year’s ballot there are two city elections – Jourdanton and Charlotte on the ballot. However, impacting the county and the state of Texas are 10 constitutional amendments including public school funding and cancer research. Proposition 4 (HJR 38) banning individual income tax is pegged to be the prop that will motivate voters to vote. The wording of Proposition 4(HJR 38) has been widely criticized as confusing. The problem with being against a state income tax is that you must vote “FOR” at the polls. The confusion on the wording is already evident said Janice Ruple, Atascosa County Elections Administrator. Ruple reported that on the first day of voting with the new electronic voting system there was nary a complaint. But, there was about the wording of Proposition 4.
The bottom line is that Proposition 4 would prohibit the Texas Legislature from establishing a personal state income tax.
If you do not want to prohibit Texas Legislature from establishing a personal state income tax then vote AGAINST.
If you want to prohibit Texas Legislature from establishing a personal state income tax then vote FOR.
The non-partisan League of Women’s Voters founded in 1920 makes available to the public a non-biased pro and con Voter’s Guide so voters can make informed decisions. The League of Women Voters of Texas researched each amendment on the current ballot and has according to the organization provided fair and unbiased information to help voters understand the amendments. Here is their take on Proposition 4 (HJR 38):
Proposition 4 (HJR 38) “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”
Explanation: Proposition 4 would prohibit the Texas Legislature from establishing a personal state income tax.
A 2019 poll by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Tribune found 71 percent of respondents oppose an individual state income tax.
Texas has a low-tax, pro-growth approach to economic expansion, and that is dependent on having no personal income tax.
This amendment could support population growth in Texas, as families and businesses may move to Texas because there is no state income tax.
An income tax would also increase the size of government by requiring a large bureaucracy to administer it.
This amendment is not necessary because the Texas Constitution now prohibits the Legislature from imposing an income tax without a statewide referendum (Art. 8, Sec. 24, adopted in 1993). In addition, any net revenue from that tax must be used for the support of education.
Revenue from an income tax could reduce the tax burden on businesses, which pay a higher proportion of taxes in Texas than in other states.
The current Legislature and today’s voters should not make taxation decisions for future Texans. The needs of Texans change over time, so future Texans should make their own choices on taxation.
One reason Texans pay high property and sales taxes may be because Texas has no income tax. If Proposition 4 passed, these taxes would likely continue to increase, so Proposition 4 would not necessarily decrease the size of state government.
Following is an abbreviated League of Women Voters explanation of the amendments, For their full findings please, go to www.vote411.org or to your public library.
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”
What it means: This would allow municipal judges to be elected in multiple municipalities at the same time.
According to the League of Women’s Voters, this proposition could benefit public safety by making it easier to get search warrants and obtain case information. An argument against Prop 1 is that if a municipal judge were to be elected to a place where he or she did not reside, that person might not have any understanding or interest in that community.
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.”
What it means: This would allow the Water Development Board to issue “general obligation bonds” (up to $200 million) for Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP) in order to develop water supply and sewer projects in economically depressed areas of Texas.
According to LWV, an argument for Prop 2 is that all citizens deserve clean water, regardless of income. They explain that this is a local issue and should not be handled by the state.
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.”
What it means: In a governor-declared disaster area, a temporary property tax exemption is allowed — 15%, 30%, 60% or 100% exemptions would be given, depending on the severity of the property damage.
LWV says that an argument for Prop 3 is that this would give better and quicker relief to those dealing with natural disasters. They say that Prop 3 relies on local governments to choose whether or not to follow through with exemptions, so it might not help as many people as it intends
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”
What it means: Prop 4 would prohibit Texas from creating a personal state income tax.
LVW says that a great majority (71%) of people polled at UT Austin and the Texas Tribune oppose a personal state income tax. An argument against Prop 4 is that it is not necessary because the Texas Constitution already prohibits creating a personal income tax without a statewide
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.”
What it means: Funds from the sales tax of sporting goods would be required to be put toward the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission. This was originally planned to go into effect in 1993, but a loophole has allowed much of the money to be allocated in other areas of the state budget.
LVW says that it would require the state government to further support parks and wildlife – something that is a huge part of the Texas state economy. They say an argument against it is that putting a fund toward a specific purpose totally eliminates flexibility in the state budget.
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.”
What it means: This would increase the total max bond amount for the CPRIT – Center Prevention and Research Institute of Texas from $3 billion to $6 billion — a $3 billion increase.
LWV says that the CPRIT is responsible for thousands of jobs brought to Texas. They say an argument against it is that the state is set to fund CPRIT at $3 billion until 2022.
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”
What it means: Distribution of funds could double from $300 million to $600 million to the Available School Fund every year, giving more money to schools. The State Board of Education and the General Land Office oversee the distribution of money from the sale and leasing of land for the Permanent School Fund. The amount of money distributed from that fund, going to schools, could double annually.
LWV argues that this will increase vital funding for schools in Texas. They say that “Both the School Land Board and the State Board of Education have responsibilities for managing the Permanent School Fund. If the School Land Board makes larger deposits directly to the Available School Fund rather than into the Permanent School Fund, it changes the amount the State Board of Education is required to distribute from the Permanent School
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.”
What it means: This would establish the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) — a special fund that would be created after a one time distribution from the “rainy day fund,” or the Economic Stabilization Fund. The Texas Water Development Board would grant or loan the FIF to local governments in order to maintain flood control structures and help economically distressed areas.
LWV argues that this will help Texas cities be prepared to prevent future damage. They explain that a local government has the potential to default on a loan from the Texas Water Development Board, leaving taxpayers potentially liable for repayment of loans.
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.”
What it means: This would mean that precious metals held in a depository in Texas (one opened in 2018) would be exempt from taxation.
LWV argues that other states don’t tax precious metal and this would allow any Texas depository with precious metals to compete on a grander scale. They explain that it is simply unnecessary because Texas counties don’t enforce the property tax on precious metals at this point.
On the ballot you’ll see: “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”
What it means: This would allow law enforcement animals to retire and be adopted by caretakers or their former handlers without any fee.
LWV says that it would allow the law enforcement animals to have a safe and healthy future after retirement. They argue that it could reduce state income, explaining that a government sponsored auction for a law enforcement animal would raise more money than a fee-free adoption.
To read all the League’s explanations for other amendments along with arguments for and against each amendment please look for the League’s Voters Guide available at most public libraries or access the electronic version at vote411.org.