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When George W. Bush headed to Washington, he left Texans paying less in taxes, filing fewer lawsuits and having more choices in education. While the members of the 77th Texas Legislature were not exactly taxpayer friendly, they did little to reverse this Bush legacy.
"Thanks to Governor Perry, who headed off all attempts to raise taxes, the Bush legacy remains intact," said Peggy Venable, director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. "He steadfastly opposed new taxes and zealously protected the rainy day fund. However, from the standpoint of taxpayers and consumers, this session leaves us with storm clouds looming on the horizon."
From a taxpayer’s perspective, there were few high points during the legislative session. Good bills that would have required a supermajority vote to raise taxes, legislation that limits spending to the rate of growth of personal income, legislation to eliminate double taxation on our telephone bills and the reform of class action lawsuits all failed to get out of committee.
Conversely, a new program providing state funds for teacher health insurance and other items that significantly increased the budget caused an overall increase in the state budget of $15 billion over what was budgeted for the last biennium, which threatens the long-term health of the Texas economy.
"The state budget is up over 15% from last biennium. Yet most Texans won’t experience a 15% growth in income," said Venable. "Families live within a budget and set priorities. State government – spending our tax dollars – should do the same."
"Special interests and some state legislators want to impose an income tax on Texans by any means possible," added Venable. "This budget is their way of doing that, as the growth in programs over the biennium will force either a substantial increase in taxes or deep cuts in programs next session, or a combination of both."
On a related note, one of the major aspects of the Bush legacy was the civil justice reform measures he championed in 1995. A study conducted last year by Texas CSE found that these reforms saved the average family of four over $1000 per year in higher income and lower prices. This session trial lawyers made several attempts to roll back these gains; however consumers secured their biggest victory when the trial lawyer’s legislation was defeated.