Before the Labor Day weekend, Sen. Dan Patrick said something that was considered to be newsworthy even though he and others have been saying it for years.
A Republican state senator calling for a tax increase is clearly in the man-bites-dog media category. When that senator is tea party champion Dan Patrick, R-Houston, it’s in the man-bites-big dog realm, although Patrick himself insisted he wasn’t really making news.
In remarks to the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Patrick called for raising the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax by 2 cents and dedicating the amount raised to public education.
“Every penny that we bring in in sales tax generates approximately $2.5 billion per year, so a two-cent increase on a two-year budget would bring us nearly $10 billion,” he said.
Patrick proposes to tie a sales-tax increase to a property-tax reduction of somewhere between 5 and 10 cents.
“I’ve been saying this for months,” the senator said yesterday, “so this is nothing new.”
It’s older than that. The idea of swapping a property tax cut for a sales tax increase goes back to at least 2005, when then-Speaker Tom Craddick tried to get one through the Lege as a preemptive “solution” to the forthcoming West Orange-Cove ruling from the Supreme Court. In addition to not actually solving the state’s revenue shortfall, since Patrick would offset all that revenue with property tax cuts and appraisal caps, this proposal would represent a huge shift of the tax burden from the wealthiest to everyone else. The Legislative Budget Board analysis that led to the headlines in that last link were based on a one-cent increase in the sales tax; Patrick is proposing a two-cent increase. It’s true that if you’re a homeowner, you would pay less in property taxes. It’s just that unless you own a really really expensive home (or homes) you won’t get enough savings to offset the extra sales taxes you’ll be paying. And if you’re a renter, well, Dan Patrick doesn’t care about you.
So there is something newsworthy about what Patrick said to the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce, even if it is old news. It’s just that the newsworthiness isn’t in what he said, but in being clear about what it means. EoW has more.