The Arena

Texas Action Supports Special Session
Posted July 17, 2017 by Nathanael Ferguson

Property TaxWe support Governor Abbott’s call for a special session of the Texas legislature. Too many liberty-oriented reforms died on the vine when the regular legislative session adjourned. The special session which begins tomorrow will give the legislature a much needed opportunity to address a number of issues which should not be left unresolved until the next regular session in 2019. We encourage legislators to take advantage of this opportunity to pass strong measures to reform property taxes, secure property rights with respect to municipal annexation and tree removal, enact school choice for those most in need, get the government out of the collection of union dues, and enact spending caps to keep debt from growing out of control. Enacting these and other liberty reforms this special session will help secure our future and keep Texas ranked among the top places to live, work, start or grow a business, and raise a family.

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Pre-filed Amendments To House Budget
Posted April 05, 2017 by Nathanael Ferguson

Budget 2Creating the Texas budget is a long and complex process. The budget as it stands before the House on second reading is likely to undergo significant changes before final passage. For this reason, we refrain from taking a position at this time. However, we have reviewed all of the pre-filed amendments and we have taken a position on a number of those. Before getting to specific amendments, a few comments on how we chose which amendments to take a position on.

We take the same principled approach to amendments as we do to normal stand-alone legislation. We support amendments that protect the Economic Stabilization (Rainy Day) Fund, avoid budget gimmicks, and prioritize spending that funds core functions of government over nonessential spending.

We oppose amendments that inappropriately raid the rainy day fund, inappropriately use the budget as a vehicle to make general law, constitute riders to fund bills we oppose, or are predominantly political in nature.

We choose not to take a position on bills that prioritize spending between competing core functions of government, shift funding from one non-core function of government to another non-core function of government, relate to social issues, ...

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Three Hallmarks Of A Conservative Texas Budget
Posted April 03, 2017 by Megan Reed

budgetEvery two years the Texas Legislature convenes with one constitutional requirement: write and pass the balanced biennial budget. This is nothing short of a monumental task, especially this session where we are faced with less tax revenue than anticipated due to slower economic growth.

As the 85th Legislative Session grinds on, the Texas House and Senate are producing vastly different budgets. Last week the Senate budget was unanimously passed out of their chamber. This week it is the House chamber’s turn to address the budget.

At Texas Action we have decided to remain neutral on the House budget on as it currently stands on second reading. However, we will be supporting and opposing specific amendments that substantially make the document better…or worse. When the budget comes up for a final vote after amendments we may take a position in support or opposition depending upon how it is amended.

That said, we expect and believe Texas deserves a budget based on the principled priorities our organization works diligently to uphold.

The budget that is ultimately adopted should follow a few simple guiding principles:

  • The budget should be free ...
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Texas Badly Needs Occupational License Deregulation
Posted March 31, 2017 by Nathanael Ferguson

licenseAs the Texas legislature considers bills this session creating new occupational licenses or adding new requirements to existing licensed occupations, we wanted to give a broad overview of the approach we take to offering vote recommendations on relevant bills. First, consider the following data.

While precise and up to date numbers can be difficult to pinpoint, we know that as of 2009 Texas regulated 514 professions, including 34 lower income professions. According to a report published by the Obama White House in 2015, 24.1% of Texas workers need an approval slip from the state to go to work in their chosen profession. This is particularly troubling when considered against the fact that the same report notes that only 20.7% of workers in the regulatory empire of California are required to obtain an occupational license. According to a national study conducted by the Institute for Justice in 2012, the average cost to obtain a license in Texas is “$304 in fees, 326 days of training, and two exams.” For some professions such as fishers, licensees pay fees as high as $4,800.

It is our view that occupational licensure ...

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Texas Should Not Subsidize Alternative Fuel Vehicles
Posted March 14, 2017 by Nathanael Ferguson

SB 26 violates free markets and limited government by expanding current grant and incentive programs for alternative fuel refueling stations, creating new grant and incentive programs for the lease or purchase of new alternative fuel vehicles by private citizens, and requiring state agencies to purchase alternative fuels vehicles when they turn over their fleets.

The provision creating an incentive for individuals to purchase or lease an alternative fuels vehicle (such as compressed natural gas, electric, or hybrid) would grant a subsidy of up to $5,000 for each new vehicle purchased or leased. These new vehicles are incredibly expensive, even after the subsidy, making them unaffordable for most people. This is essentially a tax break for the wealthy.

The state government should not be picking winners and losers in the economy, distorting markets, and giving taxpayer-funded subsidies for wealthy people to buy vehicles preferred by the government. We maintain our steadfast opposition to SB 26.

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Down With Daylight Saving Time
Posted March 12, 2017 by Nathanael Ferguson

Did you feel robbed by having an hour stolen from your sleep overnight on Saturday with the resumption of Daylight Saving Time? So did we! Fortunately there are efforts in both chambers to do away with the unnecessary and disruptive twice-annual change of the clock. We support and encourage the legislature to take up HB 95, HB 2400, or SB 238 which would withdraw Texas from participation in Daylight Saving Time.

As long as we are on the subject, we might as well re-post our analysis, written by Gregory Weeks, of Rep. Dan Flynn’s attempt to get this done during the 84th Legislature:

HB 150 is one of the best bills being considered by the legislature this session as daylight savings time (DST) is a highly problematic and duplicitous practice. Hopefully Texas, by following the paths taken by six other U.S. states and territories, can reverse the sickly and problematic fad of DST, which has been used by so much of the world, at one time or another, for almost 100 years. There are at least ten distinct reasons to oppose DST, each of which will ...

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The Carve-Out Problem: Why Special Exemptions Are Not Principled
Posted March 07, 2017 by Michael Bullock

It happens every session. There is a bill proposed that exempts some group from paying all or part of a certain tax. Whether it is the sales tax, property tax, franchise tax, motor vehicle sales tax, or gas tax someone is going to get a perk. On thier face, these exemptions may seem like a good idea. In general conservative, limited government, principles would lead one to believe that restricting government income is a good thing. Who doesn’t want government to have less money, right? But when you cross examine that thinking, we are forced to do a deeper dive into what exactly those principles mean and how they are applied.

The Texas Comptroller put out a report in February of 2017 that said the aggregate exemptions for the above mentioned taxes will total an estimated $55.5 billion. $11.8 billion of that coming from school property tax exemptions. In 2015 that number was $54.2 billion with $9.8 billion coming from school property tax exemptions. Over the course of one session, the legislature managed to give $1.3 billion in exemptions. To give you some perspective, $55.5 billion is 52% of the General Revenue appropriated in the 84th Regular ...

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Remember The Alamo!
Posted March 06, 2017 by Nathanael Ferguson

AlamoToday we mark the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo 181 years ago. The brave men who died there did not have to; they could have escaped and survived. They chose to stay and fight because some things are worth fighting, and yes, dying for. It is because of their courage, grit, and devotion to liberty that we have the benefit of living in Texas today.

Our modern Texas remains a beacon of hope and liberty to millions, not only in other states but across the world. The Spirit of 1836 lives on and courses through the veins of every Texan, native born or otherwise. The blessings of liberty that were secured with the price of blood and which have been handed down to us through the generations for 181 years are our responsibility to guard, preserve, and pass down to the next generation.

As the 85th Legislature works this session to serve the people of this great state, we encourage members of both chambers and both parties to apply that same spirit in their approach to lawmaking. As our public servants remain committed to liberty and limited government, we continue to honor ...

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Happy Texas Independence Day
Posted March 02, 2017 by Nathanael Ferguson

On this day 181 years ago at Washington-on-the-Brazos, delegates to the Convention of 1836 declared independence for Texas. Merely declaring it was one thing – winning it was another, and no certain thing at that. Yet, win it they did for the benefit of their generation and all that followed. It is up to us to safeguard the liberty they secured at so great a cost and ensure that it lives on for another 181 years and beyond. Happy Texas Independence Day to our fellow Texans!

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Good Intentions Often Produce Bad Legislation
Posted January 19, 2017 by Nathanael Ferguson

Daniel Webster once said “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

As we prepare to serve our state legislators by providing them with bill analysis and liberty-minded vote recommendations, we reaffirm our commitment to making recommendations rooted in principle regardless of the partisan affiliation of the bill authors, the emotional subject matter of the bills, or the good intentions of the legislature in considering the bills. There will be many bills this legislative session filed with good intentions but which grow the size and scope of government, infringe on individual liberty, create special classes, or give preferential treatment to certain groups to the exclusion of others. Regardless of how well-intentioned those bills are we will recommend legislators oppose them lest liberty be diminished upon the altar of good intentions.

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