86th LegislatureStatewide NewsTaxes & SpendingConstitutional Prohibition on State Income Tax Overwhelmingly Approved by Texas Voters

The constitutional prohibition on a state income tax was one of 10 ballot measures placed in front of Texas voters yesterday.
November 6, 2019
The constitutional prohibition against an income tax jumped out to a large, early lead on Tuesday night and never let up. Proposition 4 notched almost a three to one victory with “For” coming in just shy of 75 percent (as of this writing, only Real County’s tally is still outstanding).

The measure pulled in over 1.3 million of the total 1.75 million votes cast. Turnout for this race was 11.02 percent and had an undervote of 14.2 million.

Bexar, Dallas, and Harris counties all went nearly two to one in favor of the proposition while the most notable county to vote against was Travis County — which posted 55-45 against the proposition.

Tarrant County, meanwhile, posted a whopping 77 percent in favor of the proposition.

Polling showed beforehand that 71 percent of Texans were opposed to a state income tax. Proposition 4 outperformed that number by a few percentage points.

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With the approval of Proposition 4, it will now require a two-thirds vote in both the State House and State Senate followed by majority approval from Texas voters to enact a state income tax.

The ballot measure had become somewhat of a lightning rod ahead of the election due to a push from progressives and public education advocates concerned that the Bullock Amendment (an appropriation of funds that would direct the spending of a hypothetical state income tax) would become null and void.

That amendment, whose language was not included in Proposition 4, stated that two-thirds of the revenue from a hypothetical state income tax must go toward buying-down property taxes and the other third must go toward school funding.

Opponents also claimed that the tax would jeopardize the state’s franchise tax, but this concern seemed largely unfounded since the definition of “individual” was changed during the 86th Legislature to specifically exclude businesses and other legal entities.

Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), who authored the bill in the State House, tweeted about the passage, “Tonight we heard loud & clear from our fellow Texans that they can be trusted to spend, save & steward their own hard-earned money better than any politician. The passage of Prop 4 is a monumental victory for those Texans of today and for future Texans of tomorrow.”

Governor Abbott reacted on Twitter, saying, “THANK YOU TEXANS!!!! [sic] Future generations of Texans will thank you too. Keep Government out of your pocketbook.”

Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), said in a statement to The Texan: “It’s unfortunate that this amendment was included on the ballot in the first place. There was no imminent threat of legislators proposing an income tax — nor have there been any credible proposals throughout my 13 years in the Texas Legislature. One can only assume that this effort was purely about obtaining political rhetoric for campaign purposes. If voters decide in the future that an income tax is warranted and should be approved by the legislature, Proposition 4 still allows us that opportunity through a two-thirds vote for another constitutional amendment. So, again, this appears to have been a solution in search of a problem. Only this time, voters are worse off because they don’t have the assurance that any potential income tax will be required to lower their property taxes and increase funding to public schools.”

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include Rep. Donna Howard’s statement on the results.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.