Politics
1:25 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Agenda Texas: What Does 'Tax Relief' Mean?

Deciphering Tax Relief

Texas lawmakers are slowly cranking up the 83rd legislative session. A major focus so far has been how to spend billions of dollars in extra revenue. Gov. Rick Perry knows what should be done with that money.

“It’s time for us to take a hard look at providing tax relief,” he says.

Perry brought up the idea of tax cuts to the Texas House on the opening day of the legislative session. Since then he hasn’t given many specifics. So to help us decipher just what the governor might have in mind, let's ask for help from Texas Monthly Sr. Executive Editor Paul Burka.

KUT News: What does "tax relief" mean?

Burka: Well I think Governor Perry in general his philosophy of government is to hold down spending. If you’re giving tax relief what in effect you’re doing is not spending the money on major government projects.

KUT News: So tax relief could be code for just reducing government spending?

Burka: I believe that that is another way to translate it. Because otherwise if you want to use it for a water plan for example, that’s gonna cost billions of dollars.  If you want to use it for highways, that’s going to cost billions of dollars.

KUT News: So far, when he’s asked for specifics, Gov. Perry says little. But he has asked for help in coming up with a plan.

Gov. Perry recently said:

“I mean I’d love to hear from people of the state of Texas. What can we do at this particular juncture to reduce the regulatory burden, to reduce the tax burden, to reduce the cost of doing business in the state of Texas?”

He wants to hear from the people of Texas. What’s his play there?

Burka: I think he wants to engage the public on his ideas. The part of governing that Perry likes the best is to get out among the public and to campaign. And to find out what the public is thinking. And he generates a lot of energy, internal energy, and restorative energy from being on the campaign trail. I think that’s what his true love is about: politics.

KUT News: At least one Perry critic say the reason he’s asking for ideas is because he has none. Do you think that's a fair characterization?

Burka: No I wouldn’t say that, that he’s asking the public because he doesn’t know. I think Perry always has a plan.

KUT News: Do you think we’re going to get tax cuts this session?

Burka: I think we’ll get it. I don’t think we’ll get tax relief that would be evenly doled out. But I think there will be some.

State-of-the-State Rewind

Gov. Rick Perry will deliver his biennial State-of-the-State speech Tuesday. This will be his seventh address.

In  his past speeches he has called for improved schools, or better roads, even more freedom: things Texans like to hear. But the governor has also used the address as a place to stress his conservative values.

Especially heading into sessions where money is tight – and bills that cost nothing or even save money become very popular. Like in 2011:

"Most Texans, regardless of party, believe the integrity of elections would be improved, by requiring participants to show a valid photo identification before voting.”

“We need to protect the unborn by fast-tracking the sonogram bill, so that women are fully, medically informed before they make the life- changing decision to terminate a pregnancy.”

Gov. Perry’s 2007 State of the State included what some called his best policy initiative and his worst. The governor called for the creation of a $3 billion fund for cancer research, which would eventually become the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas – an organization that has run into trouble over how it doles out grants. But the idea behind it, that the research could change the world, is laudable.

In that same speech however he also asked lawmakers to sell the state lottery to boost revenues. And called for a program to vaccinate young girls against a virus that causes cervical cancer.

“I refuse to look a young woman in the eye ten years from now who suffers from this form of cancer and tell her we could have stopped it, but we didn’t," said Perry. Republican lawmakers almost immediately balked.

So what will we get this year? He might call for funding the state water plan. Just like he did back in 2009, calling to “make this 81st session memorable as the moment when Texas finally invested in your water plan that is well-researched and locally-developed ... but not-yet-funded.”

Lawmakers hope for better results this time around.

You can hear the governor’s speech live Tuesday at 11 a.m. on KUT 90.5.

Tax Cuts – education spending – water – transportation? What issues are important to you?  Drop us a line at agendatexas@kut.org and we’ll try to get you the answers.