In Texas, widely viewed as one of the reddest states in the nation, conservatives are working hard to get a large property tax relief package, an education savings account (ESA) program, and other landmark reforms to Governor Greg Abbott’s (R) desk before the state legislature adjourns its 88th regular session on May 30.
Governor Abbott has made school choice a top priority this year, barnstorming the state for months and speaking at numerous events in favor of providing Texas families with school choice, something that parents and children have in a growing number of states. Since the beginning of 2021, legislatures in ten states have enacted or expanded ESA programs. When Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation in March to provide universal access to ESAs in Florida, it was the fourth state to enact legislation in 2023 making ESAs available to children.
Recent polling continues to show strong public support for ESAs in Texas. Anew University of Texas-Austin Texas Politics Project poll, like many previous polls, found strong bipartisan backing for ESAs among Texas voters. That poll, which was conducted in April, found 60% of Texas voters overall support the creation of an ESA program, including 75% of Republicans surveyed and 46% of Democrats. The UT-Austin poll also found majorities of black (64%) and hispanic (56%) voters support the enactment of an ESA program in Texas.
Since Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R) passed an ESA bill, Senate Bill 8, out of the Texas Senate on April 6, those pushing for school choice in Texas have been focused on the House. Legislators know they likely face a special session this summer if significant property tax relief and a bill that expands school choice in a meaningful way is not enacted before the regular session ends.
Bills Conservatives Want To Fail
While school choice is one of the top reforms that conservatives would like to see Texas lawmakers send to Governor Abbott this month, there are other pending bills that many conservatives and free market oriented legislators would like to see voted down or allowed to die. One such proposal that is viewed as a legislative threat by conservatives is House Bill 4602/Senate Bill 1498, legislation that would raise taxes on Texans who lend their personal vehicle out through a car sharing platform. Such platforms are relatively new, but they’ve proven popular because they expand consumer options while providing people with a new source of income. These platforms have been described by some as “AirBnB, but for personal vehicles instead of personal homes.”
HB 4602/SB 1498 is part of a multi-state campaign by rental car company lobbyists who are seeking to impose higher taxes on a competitor. Rental car company representatives claim that they are at a disadvantage since they must collect and remit rental car excises taxes, while car sharing hosts do not.
Yet car sharing platforms, car sharing hosts, and other opponents of HB 4602/SB 1498 point out that the playing field is already uneven, with rental car companies currently possessing their own tax advantage relative to car sharing platforms. That’s because rental car companies do not pay sales tax on the vehicles that they rent out, whereas Texans who rent out their cars through an online platform have paid sales tax on their vehicle.
Critics of HB 4602/SB 1498 contend that it would further exacerbate an unlevel tax framework in favor of rental car companies at the expense of Texans. Unlike rental car companies, Texans who earn income through peer-to-peer car sharing services pay a motor vehicle sales tax. Rental car companies, meanwhile, collect gross rental receipts tax from their customers instead of paying the motor vehicle sales tax.
HB 4602/SB 1498 would force Texans to remit three taxes (the motor vehicle sales tax, gross rental receipts tax, and a local stadium tax). Rental car companies, meanwhile, only have to remit two of those taxes. Opponents of HB 4602/SB 1498 point out that the majority of peer-to-peer car sharing customers (or guests) in the state are Texas residents in need of a vehicle for in-state trips. Texas residents who would be adversely affected by HB 4602/SB 1498 already help pay for local stadiums through property taxes and general sales tax payments. Rental car company lobbyists insist they’re seeking tax parity with car sharing platforms, but critics view this proposal as bad policy that would further tilt the playing field in favor of rental car companies to the detriment of many Texans.
Another bill still pending in Austin that conservatives would like to see go down this month is House Bill 3395, legislation that would prohibit credit card interchange fees from applying to the tax portion of a transaction. In April, a coalition of conservative organizations sent a joint letter to Texas legislators urging opposition to HB 3395, stating that if this bill is enacted, state government “would be interfering in the free market in an attempt to control who bears the burden of collecting and remitting sales tax – risking higher costs for Texans in a time of out-of-control inflation.”
“Like every government attempt to control the market, there will be unintended consequences,” the April joint letter added. “By drastically increasing the amount of transactions processed, forcing processors to create new systems, software, and even new equipment, costs for small businesses and consumers in Texas would rise.”
California-Style Committee Proposed In TexasWhile heavy handed regulations like plastic bag bans and taxes are typically associated with blue states like California, they can still pop up in red states. Take House Bill 3210, legislation now pending in the Texas House of Representatives that aims to “address the proliferation of carryout bags” and “reduce a source of litter on the landscape.”
HB 3210 seeks to accomplish this mission through the creation of a new committee that will “develop and implement a statewide litter program to comprehensively address litter prevention and reduction.” The committee created by HB 3210 will also “evaluate existing state laws, and any administrative rules related to those laws, that address litter.”
Concerns that the committee created by HB 3210 could have negative unintended consequences were voiced at the April 20 hearing on the bill.
“This committee, as proposed, should be given the ability to assist recyclers collect and process the targeted items in a cost effective manner,” said Bryan Wallace, an Alvin resident, in testimony presented to the April committee hearing on HB 3210.
“However,” Wallace added, “If the goal of this committee becomes that of an enforcement agency with a punitive culture toward businesses, then I would be very opposed to using public funds to build such an organization.”
The Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl has written about how “leading progressive bills make utopian promises of huge new benefits and then assign a commission or agency to figure out how to make it all work.” Enactment of HB 3210 would have Texas taking a similar approach.
In addition to these bills that Texas conservatives would like to see defeated, there are many who believe that Republicans in both the state House and Senate are proposing to spend too much. One of those is Vance Ginn, Ph.D., an economist who has worked on public policy in Texas for a decade where he helped create the Conservative Texas Budget approach and is now a senior fellow at Americans for Tax Reform. Ginn says the current spending levels that have been proposed by both the House and Senate are too high.
“The Senate and House passed two-year budgets that substantially increase from what was appropriated last session to totals of more than $300 billion,” says Ginn. “These irresponsible budgets spend too much and provide too little in new property tax relief.”
“The amount of new property tax relief should be about $20 billion to be the ‘record relief’ desired by state leadership to account for inflation since the $14.2 billion in property tax relief in 2008-09,” Ginn adds. “Texas must remain competitive and not sit back on its laurels as other states are passing responsible budgets, providing substantial tax relief, and creating universal ESAs. But time is running out quickly.”
While Texas conservatives are playing offense in trying to enact property tax relief and expand school choice, it’s clear they still see many legislative threats looming in the final weeks of session in Austin. If House and Senate leaders are unable to get top priorities to Governor Abbott’s desk this month, however, there is a good chance they’ll have to return to Austin this summer to address unfinished business in a special session.
Originally posted at Forbes.
Let People Prosper Show Ep. 43: TRUTH About Bitcoin, Free Banking, U.S. Dollar, the Fed, & Better Money w Dr. Larry White
On today's episode of the "Let People Prosper" show, I'm thankful to be joined by Dr. Larry White, Professor of Theory and History of Banking and Money at George Mason University and author of the new book "Better Money: Gold, Fiat, or Bitcoin?"
You can watch this interview on YouTube or listen to it on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, or Anchor (please share, subscribe, like, and leave a 5-star rating).
Dr. White’s bio:
For show notes, thoughtful economic insights, media interviews, speeches, blog posts, research, and more, check out my personal website and subscribe to my Substack newsletter where you can get every episode in your inbox.
House Republicans have proposed a bill that would increase the debt ceiling but cut government spending. Biden has refused to negotiate the terms of the bill because of these cuts. Now U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the 14th Amendment could be invoked to declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional. This would enable the United States to avoid default but would lead to what Yellen calls a “constitutional crisis.” NTD spoke with Vance Ginn, senior fellow at Americans for Tax Reform, to learn more about the issue.
Watch interview with NTD News here.
Our new jobs report highlights Louisiana’s economic situation based on the most recent data. The report is based on several key factors that indicate how the economy, labor market, and public policy influence the lives of everyday Louisianans. While some of these data indicate a relatively strong labor market–such as the historically low unemployment rate–there are underlying factors showing Louisiana’s economic struggle.
Louisiana’s comeback story will happen through reforms that remove government barriers, bring jobs and opportunity back to Louisiana, and let people prosper. We must decide: Will we continue to hold on to the status quo (which hasn’t done us any favors), or will we embrace the significant reforms necessary to bring jobs and opportunity to Louisiana? We need the latter.
Read the full two-pager originally posted by Pelican Institute.
In our system of federalism, competition matters among the states. This reality has been on full display the past few years as people fled big-government states like California and New York to more limited government states like Texas and Florida. But what works best?
The American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “Rich States, Poor States” report is a recent comparison of states. Utah, a politically red state, ranks second best in economic performance and first in economic outlook for 2023. Texas, the largest red state, ranks seventh in performance and 13th in outlook. On the surface, this looks pretty straightforward, but a closer look shows that Texas is a leader but needs much improvement.
The report measures performance based on the growth of state gross domestic product, absolute domestic migration, and non-farm payroll from 2011 to 2021. The economic outlook is based on 15 state policy variables, including tax burden, debt and other factors.
Utah beats Texas for state GDP and nonfarm payroll growth rates, while Texas wins for absolute domestic migration. This is thanks to people leaving states like California and New York, which rank 45th and 50th, respectively, in outlook, and coming to Texas in search of more economic freedom.
Should Utah be a model for Texas? Not necessarily.
Note that Utah’s population is about 3.4 million. Texas has more than 30 million people or nearly nine times more people than Utah. Utah is also less diverse, with 77.2% of its population being white, 14.8% Hispanic, and 1.5% black, compared with Texas’ population being 40.3% white, 40.2% Hispanic, and 13.2% Black. Texas also has twice the share of foreign-born residents, with 17.0%, whereas Utah has just 8.5%. Utah has a much lower poverty rate at 8.6% compared with 14.2% in Texas.
Clearly, there are significant differences between these two red states. And what works well in Utah likely may not fit well in Texas, given their substantially different demographics and economies.
While the ALEC report is insightful, a cursory glance at the two ranks is just that. Considering all the metrics it provides along with state population and diversity, there’s a more holistic picture of which states are thriving.
A more reasonable comparison for Texas based on economic and population sizes and diversity is the second largest red state of Florida.
Florida has a population of about 22 million, with 52.7% white, 26.8% Hispanic, and 17.0% Black, while 21.0% is foreign-born, and the poverty rate is 13.1%. According to ALEC’s report, Florida ranks first for performance, better than Utah and Texas, and 9th for outlook, better than Texas.
Texas and Florida boast business-friendly policy climates, typically spend responsibly, have no state income tax, and are right-to-work states. And the performances of their economies are robust based on multiple indicators.
But two of the biggest factors that put Florida above Texas are the same ones that help put Utah above Texas now and for the foreseeable future: lower property tax burden and universal school choice.
According to the Tax Foundation, individuals have the 6th highest property tax burden in Texas, 26th in Florida, and 43rd in Utah. Texas’ outrageous property taxes, which are high in large part due to too much local spending, is causing an affordability crisis as home and property values have risen faster than wages for too long. If businesses perceive the cost of doing business as too high due to high property taxes, they may choose to locate elsewhere, which results in less investment, economic growth, and job creation.
This is why Texas should spend responsibly and use the at least $33 billion surplus to compress the school district maintenance and operations property taxes that are essentially controlled by the state’s school finance formulas. Combine this with spending restraint at the state and local levels and Texas could put property taxes on a path to elimination within a decade so that Texans can finally fulfill their right to own property while ending a bad wealth tax.
Finally, when it comes to school choice, Utah and Florida joined the universal school choice revolution this year, while Texas is still fighting for it. Universal school choice is critical for improved state economies as it’s linked to improved student outcomes and increased teacher pay, both essential to becoming more competitive and producing a population with less criminal activity and higher economic earnings, to name just a few benefits.
In short, competition matters! While it’s misleading to declare that Utah or Florida economically outperform Texas overall based on the differences outlined here, they do put pressure on Texas to improve or risk falling behind. Decreased property taxes and universal school choice mean more freedom, which empowers people to prosper. Time is running out this session so the Texas Legislature must act promptly.
Originally published at The Center Square.
If a state doesn’t provide tax relief, then it falls behind those that do. That’s simple competitiveness as taxes have consequences and influence families and employers’ decisions to move where they pay less in taxes. While true, it’s more pertinent now than ever given the extent of tax relief happening across the states during the flat tax revolution.
Patrick Gleason, vice president of state affairs at Americans for Tax Reform, recently said at a press conference, “We’ve gone from nine to 14 states with flat taxes. When you look at the states with a flat tax of zero — no income tax — or a flat tax above zero, we’re now at almost half the country that either has a zero income tax or a flat tax rate. This is really significant progress in just a few years.”
Louisiana ranks 25th in the country for its individual income taxes according to the Tax Foundation’s state business tax climate. It’s time for Louisiana to join the flat tax revolution or lose more people and businesses to other states. This is a pressing concern today as nearby states of Texas, Tennessee, and Florida have no personal income taxes and are leading the way in providing opportunities for people to flourish.
Income taxes reduce the incentive to work, save, and invest as each dollar of income is taken from checks before workers receive it. Progressive income taxes, like that in Louisiana with higher tax rates as incomes increase, disincentivize work and productivity even more as you lose more of your earned income as you earn more.
Clearly, progressive income taxes or just income taxes in general aren’t helpful to a family, business, or an economy and should ultimately be flattened then eliminated. These tax reforms must be accompanied with spending restraint to avoid running budget deficits, which are prohibited with the balanced budget requirement in the state, so the legislature may choose to cut spending or raise taxes.
Economic data comparisons show that the nine states without personal income taxes outperform, on average, the nine states with flat income taxes in economic growth, domestic migration, and non-farm payroll employment over the last decade. This is also true when comparing Louisiana with no income tax states, Texas and Florida, and the highest income taxes, California and New York.
There’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity this legislative session in Louisiana for lawmakers to increase the competitiveness of the state and fulfill the promise to taxpayers made in 2021 that they will provide tax relief when there’s enough revenue. There’s plenty of money available now.
Lawmakers should pass a Responsible Louisiana Budget that limits state appropriations to less than the rate of population growth plus inflation, pay down debt, and put extra money in the rainy day fund to hit the trigger for individual income and corporate franchise tax cuts. This would result in sizable tax cuts that Louisianans would feel in their daily lives through more money in their pocket, more jobs available, and more paths out of poverty.
There’s good progress in this direction so far this session but as the session is winding down there will need to be a focus on these priorities, especially hitting the revenue trigger for tax relief. If not, Louisiana will continue to fall behind nearby states which will mean more people and employers will move elsewhere. This is unacceptable and must be changed now to turn the tide of less opportunity and flourishing in the Pelican State.
Originally posted at Pelican Institute.
Re: “Protecting kids on social media — Texas House’s proposed age limit is a step forward,” Thursday editorial.
While some connect social media use with teen depression and suicides, evidence is unclear. The Economist noted, “If social media were the sole or main cause of rising levels of suicide or self-harm — rather than just one part of a complex problem — country-level data would probably show signs of their effect.” They don’t.
Underlying causes of depression and suicide are often much deeper for teens, best addressed by parents, yet some want to give it to government bureaucrats. The latest attempt is Texas House Bill 18, supported by your editorial board.
The bill would essentially ban teens from social media and force all to register online. It excludes YouTube by picking it as a winner with an educational provision.
Though well-intended, the bill would have many costly unintended consequences. Teens could lose benefits from connecting with family and friends and learning new things, have less information in a growing digital world and possibly choose less-desired activities.
Everyone registering for digital services reduces privacy and security. Texas should empower parents to decide for their kids — many of us may choose to keep our kids offline — not government bureaucrats.
Vance Ginn, Round Rock
Originally published at the Dallas Morning News.
Thank you for listening to the 7th episode of "This Week's Economy,” where I briefly share my insights every Friday morning on key economic and policy news at the U.S. and state levels.
Today, I cover:
1) National: Breaking down today's new U.S. Jobs Report and what the findings actually reflect about the current economy, plus my thoughts on real weekly average earnings and the Fed’s hike in its federal funds rate target;
2) States: Texas and Louisiana employment reports, fact and fiction, and Texas House passes corporate welfare bill in HB 5, and;
3) Other: Bills circulating on restricting social media, the value of the U.S. dollar under threat, and more.
Please share this episode on social media, like, and subscribe if you enjoyed it!
Find show notes, thoughtful economic insights, media interviews, speeches, blog posts, research, and more at my website (https://www.vanceginn.com/) or Substack newsletter (https://vanceginn.substack.com/).
The mental health of preteens and teenagers across America has been a growing concern as suicide remains the third highest cause of their deaths. The causes of suicide are largely unknown and complex.
Some point to the decline of the family structure, with fewer two-parent households, more parents working full-time, and subsequently more kids spending less time with family. Others tie the cause to fewer Americans actively practicing religion and raising their children to lean on their faith in times of stress and uncertainty.
And then there are those who blame social media and other interactive digital services, where minors are increasingly spending their time.
Whichever cause is contributing to the problem of suicides by teens is a serious one, worthy of research and solutions.
A growing number of state lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at curbing the use of social media and other interactive digital services by minors. Those bills often require age verification, nullify online contracts entered into between minors and companies offering those services, establish curfews when minors are prohibited from using them, and authorize private rights of action where individuals can sue companies and be awarded damages.
But it has not been established that social media – this thing that youth have quickly embraced and mastered, but many older adults don’t like or are still trying to figure out – is indeed the biggest problem. If it is, then which specific aspects or activities are most problematic and how can they be isolated to address them?
Instead of getting to the root causes, those who suspect it’s bad or believe that it’s at least a contributor to mental health challenges are throwing the kitchen sink at it, seemingly overlooking the practical implications of increased regulation and the dangers of inviting government to co-parent.
Take, for example, age verification requirements.
Proponents say these requirements exist only for minors, but in order to prove that one isn’t a minor, all users must provide their personal information to the social media company or its third-party provider, which matches the information against official government records. It’s not like a person attempting to buy beer or cigarettes at the grocery store, where a cashier must “card” those who appear to be underage.
When accessing the Internet on a computer, cell phone, or other electronic device, the only way for a person to prove that he or she isn’t a minor is to go through the entire age verification process…for every single program or service he or she uses. And this would apply to every user in the state.
Some argue that the risks to minors justify these burdensome new requirements, but when adults suddenly begin having to provide their personal information to access multiple online programs they’ve used for years (and not knowing where that personal information will be stored, how will it be used, whether it will be shared, and more) and then find out why, expect lots of angry phone calls to lawmakers’ offices.
This brings up a number of other questions that should be answered.
Whose job is it to monitor and, if necessary, restrict minors’ access to technology in the first place? Is it the role of government to set curfews or establish limitations for the activities of minors in the home and/or while under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian?
Should parents, schools, or others bear the responsibility of educating minors about the appropriate uses of technology, the Internet, and social media? Is enough being done to establish healthy behavior patterns and warn against the dangers of overuse, bullying, inappropriate contact, and engaging with strangers? If not, shouldn’t we start there before introducing government restrictions?
Also, could overregulation by the government lead to unintended consequences such as kids losing access to educational and other positive materials? Could it lead to them being denied the opportunity to connect and socialize with peers, family members, and others around the world who their parents know and trust, all because the government makes giving them access so burdensome?
Is government really prepared to restrict citizens’ access to one of the greatest innovations, sources of knowledge, and enablers of human interaction made available in our lifetime?
And for social media programs and interactive digital services offered across the globe, how will companies comply with potentially dozens of rules and regulations that differ from state to state? Is that even possible, and should the rules differ for Louisianans than for people living in Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi?
Rather than throwing the kitchen sink at it with bigger government, let’s be thoughtful about the best ways to address the needs of young people and their families while ensuring that solutions will actually work, are workable, and don’t trade individual liberties for more government. We’ve tried that too many times before, and the results aren’t good.
Originally published with Erin Bendily, Ph.D., at Pelican Institute for Public Policy.
Let People Prosper Show Ep. 42: TRUTH About Right to Work, Unions, Corporate Welfare, and Sustainable Michigan Budget w James Hohman
In Let People Prosper episode #42, I talk w James Hohman with Mackinac Center for Public Policy about improving Michigan's economy, right-to-work policies, corporate welfare, and budget.
On today's episode of the "Let People Prosper" show, I'm thankful to be joined by James Hohman, Director of Fiscal Policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and host of The Overton Window Podcast.
1) Right-to-work policies, workers' unions, and corporate welfare;
2) How shutdowns impacted the economy of his home state, Michigan; and
3) A path forward for the state, and others, to prosper with a Sustainable Michigan Budget and more.
You can watch this interview on YouTube or listen to it on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, or Anchor (please share, subscribe, like, and leave a 5-star rating).
The U.S. dollar is the cornerstone of the global financial system but is facing a crisis of confidence from decades of reckless fiscal and monetary policies. If this continues, the dollar could soon lose its global reserve currency status. Global competitors such as China and Russia are taking advantage of these reckless policies, further threatening trust in the dollar.
Confidence in a currency is only as strong as that of the institutions issuing the currency. In the dollar’s case, those institutions are the federal government and the Federal Reserve. Both have been irresponsible in their respective fiscal or monetary policies, and the ramifications of their mischief for the dollar would be a weaker economy and higher inflation domestically and a reshuffling of economic power globally.
Since early 2020, Congress has added more than $7 trillion to the national debt from massive deficit spending. Congress financed this by issuing U.S. Treasury securities, crowding out investments like private sector equities and bonds. Additionally, net interest payment on U.S. debt is about 8% of the federal budget and increasing rapidly. Interest expenses are expected to exceed spending on national defense or safety nets soon if Congress fails to rein in excess spending.
While the House Republicans’ bill to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending is promising, it’s unlikely to go anywhere with Democrats in charge of the Senate and the White House.
Since the early 2000s, the Federal Reserve has held its target federal funds rate too low for too long. And in 2008, it started purchasing longer-term Treasury securities and other assets, known as quantitative easing.
The Fed operates under a dual mandate of encouraging stable prices and pursuing full employment. It violated the former part of the mandate through asset purchases that fueled inflation. It now violates the latter part of the mandate as it crushes employment with quantitative tightening and the resulting higher interest rates, hence what’s known as the “boom-and-bust cycle.”
These violations, combined with its early incoherent messaging on inflation, erode confidence in the Fed’s monetary policy prowess. And this is far from a domestic concern, as global trade partners see the writing on the wall and are acting accordingly. And if confidence in the dollar continues to wane, so will the Fed’s ability to conduct monetary policy effectively by not being able to substantially influence market interest rates.
Recently, the Saudi Arabian government approved partial membership with China’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This is part of China’s strategy to expand its influence beyond the West. China conducted its “first major lNG sale in renminbi instead of dollars” and made Brazil its main trading partner instead of the U.S.
Other countries are also beginning to move away from the dollar for international transactions.
Countries across the globe know the U.S. is in economic trouble and are changing the way they do business. We should react accordingly, beginning with ending these government policy failures weakening the U.S. economy and the dollar.
First, we should address excessive fiscal and monetary policy discretion by Congress and the Federal Reserve, respectively.
This can be achieved by rules-based policies, such as a strict government spending limit for Congress and the Taylor rule for the Fed. Doing so would reduce the costly mountain of debt created by Congress and the monetary mischief by the Fed, helping to provide confidence in the economy and dollar.
Second, the U.S. should eventually move off the fiat currency system eventually.
The dollar should be backed by real assets like gold and silver. Reimplementing the gold standard or something with underlying value from productive use of capital and labor, making it more attractive to domestic and international investors.
Finally, the U.S. must take international trade seriously.
It should adopt a foreign policy of peace and goodwill through free-trade agreements with countries that benefit all parties. Tariffs and other protectionist measures do not provide that path. They lead to trade wars and tension between countries and hurt people’s livelihoods across the globe. Encouragement of global trade would support a stronger dollar.
Failing to take these steps will continue the slide of confidence and value of the dollar globally. It also jeopardizes the economic future of our country. This will result in more U.S. global partners exiting agreements and reducing investment in America. The consequences will be a weak economy and dollar that will hurt Americans.
Originally posted at Daily Caller and co-authored with Chuck Beauchamp.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D.