AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas voters raised the bar to impose a state income tax by overwhelmingly passing Proposition 4 on Tuesday.
The change to the state constitution means in order to re-open the door for an income tax, a proposal would need a two-thirds majority in both the state House and Senate, and then a majority vote from Texas voters.
The results of Tuesday night’s vote landed at 74%-26%.
“Texas sent a loud clear message to the people in this building, the politicians, that they can spend their money better than we can and Prop 4 proves that,” State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who wrote the measure.
His proposal had the support of all of the state’s Republicans in both chambers, as well as a handful of House Democrats.
“It makes it, I would say, nearly impossible for a future legislature, whether it is two years from now or 20 years from now, to impose a state income tax on hard-working Texans,” Leach said Wednesday morning.
The plan drew criticism from some teacher groups. Proposition 4 removes a prior constitutional guarantee that any future state income tax would help pay for public education and buy down school property taxes.
“The biggest concern is just the elimination of the guarantees to reduce property taxes and fund public education if at any point in the future if Texas, were to decide to, through a vote, adopt a state income tax,” Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria said.
Leach pointed to the state’s investment in public education this year.
“Just this past session we put nearly $12 billion into public education,” he explained. “I am pro public education, want to make sure our schools are strong and that we invest in our teachers and students.”
“The most disastrous thing we can do for public education in this state is to impose a state income tax that would cripple our economy, resulting in reduced revenue to the state and reduced investments to our public schools,” Leach said.
Progressive political group Progress Texas opposed Proposition 4. Advocacy Director Sam Robles said not considering imposing a state income tax forces leaders to look at other revenue streams.
“Texas being a two tax system, that means either property taxes or sales taxes are going to give,” Robles said.
Lawmakers also have approximately $9 billion in an Economic Stabilization Fund they can tap into for one-time expenses.
“We don’t have a revenue problem in this state,” Leach said.
“We do need to pay for the core competencies of government… public education, transportation, healthcare, our courts, criminal justice system, all the things that the state government does and needs to do well,” he continued. “But, we have got the revenue we need, now we just need to continue to invest and grow the Texas economy for the future.”