86th LegislatureIssuesState HouseState SenateTaxes & SpendingNew Polling Shows Proposed Sales Tax Swap Unpopular With Texas Voters

Polling shows a lack of support among Texas voters for a proposed sales tax swap to "offset" the rate of property tax growth.
May 7, 2019
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The big “tax swap” that the “Big Three” pushed last week may face a new obstacle: public opinion.

At a press conference last week, Governor Greg Abbott, alongside Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen — hailed the plan to increase the sales tax to “buy down” a reduction in property tax growth.

However, in a memo released by Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) and Rep. Kyle Biederman (R-Fredericksburg), a poll conducted by Remington Research Group — a national polling firm — suggests Texas voters aren’t all too enthused with the idea of increasing the sales tax to “offset” a reduction in property taxes.

When asked if they prefer the sales tax increase, or using revenue from other places, a plurality of Republicans (46 percent), the majority of Democrats (52 percent), and a significant number of self-identified independents (38 percent) chose the latter option.

Similarly, when split up into ideological categories, almost half of each group prefers using other revenue sources: 45 percent of conservatives, 47 percent of moderates, and 48 percent of liberals.

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When asked if they would support a sales tax swap at the ballot box, 49 percent of Republicans said they would support it with 33 percent saying they would oppose such a measure. Comparatively, only 37 percent of Democrats would support the measure with 44 percent opposing.

Meanwhile, independents were more closely aligned with 40 percent in support and 43 percent in opposition.

Those numbers, however, become even more opposition-heavy when voters are informed that the “swap” could be a net tax increase for those who make under $100,000. In that scenario, almost half of Republicans oppose the proposal with nearly two-thirds of Democrats in opposition. Just over half of independents oppose the proposal on those same grounds.

More generally, when asked if the government spends too much or too little, 78 percent of Republicans, 45 percent of Democrats, and 59 percent of independents said the government spends too much. And when asked about the current tax burden, over half of Democrats and independents, and almost two-thirds of Republicans said they were overtaxed.

The poll surveyed 1,024 likely voters and has a ±3.1 percent margin of error.

The “Big Three” suggested on Friday the bill was all-but-destined for passage with Lt. Governor Patrick going so far as saying, “We are on the five-yard line, now we just need to get across the goal line.” 

Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), the author of the Senate’s property tax legislation, has been vocally opposed to a sales tax “swap,” even drawing up his own plan to pull revenue from other, already established sources.

And the version of the school finance bill, HB 3, that passed in the Senate last night did so without the sales tax increase as the funding mechanism, a departure from previous versions of the bill. 

With only a few weeks left in the session, much work remains in order to secure the property tax relief Texans have said they desperately need. In light of both the Senate removing the sales tax mechanism in their school finance bill and the seeming unpopularity of the “tax swap” proposal with Texas voters, the current property tax reform effort may not be as close to the endzone as has been suggested.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is 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.