Clearing Up the Brewhaha

By Dick Lavine
Let’s try this again – the beer tax I mentioned recently was just a simple-to-understand example of why the Legislature needs to  go through the Tax Code with a fine-tooth comb.
Last year, the Legislature cut our schools’ budget by billions of dollars, leading to bigger classes and fewer extracurricular activities.  Getting our kids the schools they deserve is going to take more money.
One way to raise the amount needed would be to raise tax rates, like the tax on beer, which hasn’t been raised in nearly 30 years even though the price of beer – and the price of things the state pays for, like teachers – has more than doubled.
Another way would be to put an expiration date on all special-interest tax breaks– to force the Legislature to take a close look at all exemptions to see if they are worth keeping.
One great example is the “high-cost” natural gas exemption, which lowers the  tax paid on production from wells in the Barnett and Eagle Ford Shales.  This special treatment was created almost 25 years ago, when the oil and gas industry was slumping and needed a financial incentive to boost technological innovation.  It worked great!  But now that fracking and horizontal drilling are everyday procedures, the industry doesn’t need a $1 billion per year tax break to keep at it.
There’s already a “Sunset” requirement for all state agencies, which have to prove every 12 years that they are worth keeping in operation or otherwise they go out of existence.  Texas needs the same regular scrutiny of all tax breaks too, so that we can afford the investments we need now in education, health care, transportation, and water to keep us all prosperous into the future.
Despite what was reported, that’s really all I was trying to say.

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