Texas doesn’t have a personal income tax, and Gov. Greg Abbott wants to make sure it never will by adding the ban to the state constitution.
Abbott announced the new policy proposal at a Republican rally held in McKinney on Monday.
“Did you know that currently the Texas Constitution allows an income tax to be imposed in the state of Texas?” Abbott asked. “I say that it’s time we amend the Texas Constitution to eliminate the possibility of an income tax.”
In 1993, the Texas Constitution was amended to take the power to levy such a tax away from lawmakers and give it to voters; an income tax can only be imposed, Article 8 of the Constitution says, if it’s approved by a majority of registered voters in a statewide referendum and any net revenues must used for the “support of education.”
A new constitutional amendment to wholly ban an income tax would require a two-thirds vote by both the House and Senate and approval of a majority of voters.
Texans must still pay federal income taxes and state property taxes.
This isn’t the first time politicians have mulled enshrining the income tax ban in the Texas Constitution. Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, proposed such a ban in 2017. His resolution did not make it out of committee.
Lowering Texans’ taxes has become one of the top priorities of both parties in recent years. Democrats have proposed controlling rising property taxes by tackling the state’s massive and outmoded school finance system; public schools in Texas are funded largely through these taxes. Republicans, on the other hand, have tried instead to cap the annual growth of cities, school districts, counties and other local taxing jurisdictions.
Abbott, a Republican who is running for re-election this year, has proposed capping this annual growth rate at 2.5 percent. Local leaders, including officials in North Texas cities, have warned this would hamstring them from providing basic services like maintaining public safety, a quality education and even filling potholes.
“What I am leery of is, when you try to implement something that is broad stroke across an entire state, where you have fast-growing cities and you have cities that are completely grown up,” McKinney Mayor George Fuller told The Dallas Morning News earlier this year. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.”
In 2017, state lawmakers were unable to agree on a plan to curb property tax growth. The House wanted to cap rate increases at 6 percent while the Senate proposed a 4 percent growth cap.