DALLAS- Texas State Representative Lon Burnam (D) will introduce a bill this November to impose a state income tax on Texans. This will be his third attempt to implement a state income tax. The first two bills proposed would tax individuals earning more than $100,000 annually. With this bill that amount will be raised to tax individuals earning over $150,000.
I first learned about the bill when watching a video interview with Fox 4 reporter Fil Alvarado and Lon Burnam, and was inspired to write an article titled Texas State Representative Lon Burnam Will Push for State Income Tax where I raised a few questions.
Imagine my surprise when just a few minutes after the article was published, I received a message from Craig Adair, the Chief of Staff for Lon Burnam. It stated in part “based on your recent post, it seems you don’t understand some aspects of the proposed bill. May I clarify for you?”
And so I was impressed against my will. It is the job of elected officials to represent the public, yet so often we feel ignored, or that our voice is too small to make an impact. Apparently that is not the case in Representative Burnam’s office. My voice was heard, and instead of being ignored I was offered more information regarding my concerns.
In the very short video interview, we are not told how this proposed income tax would be a tax reduction for almost everyone, how property taxes would be reduced, or by what amount. We aren’t told how much people encumbered by this tax would be paying, or where exactly the revenue generated would be spent. I was unable to find these answers on Representative Burnam’s website. It is currently listed as Under Construction.
Chief of Staff for State Representative Lon Burnam, Craig Adair, had some of the answers Texans are looking for.
In the video interview posted on Fox 4 it seems as though the proposed tax would be on households earning more than $150,000 annually, however it would actually tax individuals earning more than $150,000 annually. This is a huge difference Texans need to be aware of when forming their opinion on the proposed state income tax bill.
I also learned that according to the Texas Constitution, of the revenue generated for the state of Texas by an income tax, two-thirds of it must go to reduce property taxes for all property owners, and that the excess must be spent on education. According to Mr. Adair, this would translate into an approximate 25% reduction in property taxes, and would have no impact on non-property owners.
Last year when proposing HB 1735, which would have taxed individuals making in excess of $100,000 annually, Representative Burnam’s office determined through data available at the Texas State Comptroller’s Office that 81% of Texans make less than $100,000. This translates into at most 19% of Texans being affected by a state income tax. Of course, this year the limit is supposed to be raised to $150,000 and would affect an even smaller number of us. The proposed state income tax would tax these very few individuals at a tiered rate of 2% to 6%.
According to Mr. Adair, Representative Burnam feels that lower and middle income individuals pay a “disproportionately high share of our tax burden.” After speaking with him on the phone, he graciously sent me this chart, used for the last proposal. It is titled “Texas Households with the Lowest Income Pay the Highest Percentage in State and Local Taxes” and provides information through a bar graph.
My main concern remains the fact that while this proposal would implement state income tax on individuals earning over $150,000 annually, I somehow have a suspicion that it would soon affect all of us. As I stated in the original article “The California state income tax kicks in at 2.25% for those earning less than $7,168. That’s everyone, people!” Mr. Adair assured me that “is not Representative Burnam’s intent” though of course, no one can guarantee what changes could be made later.
Though unsure of whether I would personally support Representative Burnam’s state income tax bill, I am impressed with his staff and their fast response, concise explanations, and excellent attitude toward their constituents.
Interview by phone and email conversations with Craig Adair, Chief of Staff for Lon Burnam