Know Your Ballot: Statewide Propositions

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Texans have an opportunity to vote early in this election until Friday, October 30th. Hours and locations for polling places vary by county, so voters should check out resources like the Secretary of State’s voter information site to see when and where they can vote early this week.

This year, voters in Texas will find seven statewide propositions on their ballot when they go to cast their vote. Burnt Orange Report is committed to providing progressive analysis and information to our readers, especially when it comes to items on their ballot. Today, we review all seven statewide propositions.

Proposition 1

This is a statewide tax cut for those paying property taxes. The homestead exemption effectively operates as a tax cut by reducing the property value on which property taxes are based. This amendment increases the homestead exemption by $10,000 – from $15,000 to $25,000 – for most Texans, and includes provisions to ensure that senior home owners, whose exemptions are structured differently, will also see the impact of this reduction.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) called this the “least worst” option in terms of tax cuts, and Progress Texas reminds us that an increase in the homestead exemption has been a traditionally Democratic proposal for cutting taxes.

Republicans went in to session on campaign promises to cut taxes for Texans, and of all of the proposed tax cuts that came out of the legislature, this has the best outcome for low-income Texans. The lower your property value, the larger the impact of a $10,000 increase in the homestead exemption.

However, it is worth noting that this tax cut will directly impact local revenue for school districts and will increase the state’s share of public education funding. The amendment fails to create a long-term mechanism for maintaining this increased cost to the state, and it could be argued that any tax cut when our schools and roads are in such desperate need of funding is irresponsible.

Proposition 2

The second proposition on your ballot also deals with property taxes, but with a much more narrow impact.

Texas voters chose to give 100% disabled veterans a full exemption from their property taxes, and then to extend that exemption to their spouses in the event of their death. The language that passed, however, did not extend this exemption to those who had lost their loved ones before the constitutional amendment was approved.

Voting for Proposition 2 will make sure all surviving spouses of 100% disabled veterans have access to this exemption in Texas.

Proposition 3

Voting for this proposition would allow statewide office holders to live somewhere other than the state capitol, as currently required by the constitution.

On the surface, this amendment is motivated by the advances in technology that reduce the need for elected officials to be present in Austin to do their job. Dig deeper and you’ll find that this was one of many attempts by Republicans to ensure that statewide officials facing investigation would be dealing with officials from their home county, who were likely to be much more friendly.

Proposition 4

Currently, professional sports teams in Texas are allowed to use “50/50” charitable raffles to raise money for their foundations, which they use to invest in the community, and to support nonprofits of their choice. Because this is considered a kind of gambling under the constitution, it is tightly regulated.

This amendment would allow teams to hold these raffles at any or all of their home games in a given season.

Proposition 5

In some rural counties, there aren’t enough private contractors to meet the needs of residents when it comes to constructing and maintaining private roads. The constitution allows counties with a population of 5,000 or less to provide this infrastructure support, and this amendment would increase that cap to 7,500.

This would impact only 20 out of the 254 counties in Texas, but is important for the safety of infrastructure in those rural communities.

Proposition 6

If you believe that the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife ought to be explicitly preserved in the Texas Constitution, vote for this proposition. This proposition is largely (one might say entirely) symbolic.

Proposition 7

Texas is in dire need of transportation funding, and Proposition 7 is the third step in the legislature’s solution.

This final step would dedicate existing revenue (to the tune of $2.5 billion) from the sales and use tax to be used on transportation. It would also dedicate a portion of the revenue from the sales and use tax on motor vehicles to the State Highway Fund. Starting in September of 2019, 35% of any amount of revenue from this tax exceeding $5 billion would be dedicated to the fund. For example, should the state bring in $6 billion from the tax, 35% of the $1 billion over $5 billion would go directly into the State Highway Fund.

The proposition also limits what this money can be used for – it can’t be used to fund the creation of more toll roads.

Opponents argue that moving existing funding around instead of finding ways to increase revenue, or dipping into the billions of dollars left on the table after this session’s budget, could jeopardize other public needs like education funding and healthcare. But proponents, who include some senior Democrats in the legislature, argue that this is a sustainable solution to a real infrastructure problem, and a Republican-backed initiative to invest in infrastructure shouldn’t be so quickly discounted.

Questions about what you need to be able to vote? Visit the Secretary of State’s website here for more information.


About Author

Genevieve Cato

Genevieve Cato is a feminist activist and a native Texan. While not writing for the Burnt Orange Report, she can be found working for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, serving as a community member of the Communications Committee for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, and drinking copious amounts of pretentious local craft beers.

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