Friday, June 21, 2019

Texas Party Identification, June 2019

The Texas Politics Project released the results of their June 2019 poll concerning party identification of registered voters in Texas. The results are depicted below:

The following information constitutes the most interesting in the chart:

First, there is a slight decrease in registered voters who identify as "Strong Republicans." Also, the percentage of registered voters who identify as "Weak Republicans" (the poll uses the term "Not So Strong Republicans) remained the same. Overall, the Republican identifiers are essentially the same as in the February poll (33 percent).

Second, the percentage of "Strong Democrats" and "Weak Democrats" are essentially unchanged from February (32 percent).

Third, the independents who lean towards one of the parties remained relatively large among "Republican Leaning Independents" and remained unchanged among "Democratic Leaning Independents."
The continuation of the large percentage of Republicans who are "Weak Republicans" may be significant, depending how one views the so-called "Leaners." Personally, I consider them independents, which means that the "Pure Independents" and "Leaners" make up 35 percent of registered voters and are the largest segment of registered voters. I know that "Leaners" vote and hold opinions that are even more like the people who identify strongly with the political party, but they are not willing to identify with the party, to make partisan affiliation a part of their self-identity. I believe that the unwillingness to identify initially with the party is significant and makes their political behavior somewhat variable.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Doing the Unnecessary Ridiculously

Yesterday, May 21, 2019 at 4:31 p.m., HJR 38 was enrolled, which means that on November 5, 2019, Texas voters will have the opportunity to prevent future legislatures from adopting a personal income tax in Texas without a constitutional amendment, proposed by a two-thirds vote of both chambers and a majority vote of those voters who participate in a special or general election. I have no doubt that the small percentage of Texas voters who will vote on November 5, 2019 will overwhelmingly support the amendment. Why would they not support it?

There are several reasons. Most are provided by the House Research Organization's Bill Analysis, which is here. However, I would like to elaborate on one reason cited by the HRO: "HJR 38 would rule out the possibility of introducing a tax that could offset the regressivity of the state's tax system and provide a solution to the state's school property tax and school finance problems." This simple statement needs unpacking. Texas has one of the most regressive tax systems of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Of revenues provided by taxes in Texas, 57 percent comes from the general sales tax, which is highly regressive. Another 9 percent comes from the motor vehicle sales and rental tax, and 7 percent comes from the motor fuels tax. Cumulatively, those sales taxes constitute 73 percent of tax revenues. The chart depicts the array of taxes in Texas in FY 2018.

 Currently, Texas is experiencing a problem (I'd say crisis) in funding public education. As the state's contribution to funding for public education has collapsed, local school districts have been forced to increase the local property tax to pay for educating Texas' children. The increase has caused a number of problems, leading to a consensus that property taxes, of which local school district taxes are the highest, have become untenable. In the current session, the idea of increasing the general sales tax by one percent was championed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House. However, there was little support for this proposal. According to a UT/Texas Tribune poll, increasing the general sales tax was just as unpopular as a personal income tax.

So, fearful that Texans might some day realize that a personal income tax, whose proceeds are dedicated to reducing the local property tax (two-thirds of the proceeds) and to support education (one-third of the proceeds), might be adopted, Representative Leach proposed a constitutional amendment to prevent a personal income tax in Texas--HJR 38.

Now it's up to the public to become educated. To realize that a personal income tax would be less regressive, that it would reduce property taxes, and that it could provide the funds necessary to fund public education adequately in Texas. Who's going to do that?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Party Identification in Texas, February 2019

In party identification among Texas registered voters, there is little change in party identification since the last Texas Tribune/UT Poll. The February numbers are similar. Republicans have a small advantage over Democrats in terms of strong and weak partisans (4 percent), and independents and leaners are the largest group at 35 percent.

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Beginning of the End

By 2022, the run of Republicans' hold on statewide offices in Texas will end. The realignment that started during the 1980s, created parity between the parties in 1990, and produced a Republican Party that dominated Texas elections during the late 1990s to 2014 will end soon. Republican Party support achieved its zenith in party identification in the mid-2000s, and currently, partisan attachments among registered voters in Texas are split equally among Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

These charts illustrate my argument:

Note that Republican Party identification reached 42 percent of the registered voters in 2004 and 2005. Since then, party identification has declined for Republicans to around one-third of registered voters. Currently, party identification among Texas registered voters is approximately equally split among Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

Additional support for my contention that Democrats will win a statewide office in 2022 is the decline in the Republican Party's advantage in the straight-ticket vote since its high in 2014.

The gap was nearly identical in 2010, when Rick Perry was elected to his last term as governor, and in 2014, when Greg Abbott was elected to his first term as governor. The gap was 16.96% in 2010 and 17.87% in 2014.

The negligible gap in 2018 was the result of "Beto-mania" to some extent, but it also reflects the organizing done by Democrats at the grass-roots level. Whether my prediction is correct or not, 2022 statewide elections will prove very interesting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Texas US House Members & Texas House Members

Yesterday, Mark Jones posted the Lib/Con scores of Texas' U.S. House members in the last Congress in the Texas Tribune. The graph is below:

The Texas House Lib/Con scores from the last session of the Texas legislature are charted below:

The interesting observation from the comparison is that the Republican Texas House members in the Texas legislature are less conservative, on average, than the Texas U.S. House members. Also, the Democratic Texas House members are more liberal than the Democratic Texas U.S. House Members. The average Democratic Texas U.S. House member is -1.2 on the Lib/Con scale, and the average Democratic Texas House member is -1.7 on the Lib/Con scale. On the Republican side, the average Texas U.S. House member is 1.0 on the Lib/Con scale, and the average Texas House member is -0.2 on the Lib/Con scale. Also, the most liberal Democratic Texas House member is -1.9, and the most liberal Democratic Texas U.S. House member is -1.4. Similarly, the most conservative Republican U.S. House member is 1.8, and the most conservative Republican Texas House member is 0.8.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Center for Public Policy and Political Studies Report #14

The most recent report that I authored for the ACC Center for Public Policy and Political Studies on straight-ticket voting in Texas is available here. The report shows that the percentage of straight-ticket voters in the 48 counties that provided 86 percent of the votes cast in 2018 was slightly more than two-thirds (67.49 percent). Furthermore, the votes cast for the Democratic Party nearly equaled  the percentage cast for the Republican Party. Unless the law passed in 2017 is rescinded, 2018 will be the last opportunity for voters to choose the "one-punch," straight-ticket vote in Texas. Anticipate longer lines and more time in the voting booth in 2020.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Dreaded, Unspeakable "I" Word

Yes, according to the UT/Texas Tribune Poll, only six percent of Texans favor an income tax.

However, with rising property taxes at the local level of government--primarily to support public education, the legislature would do well to think the unthinkable--an income tax. Why?

In Article VIII of the Texas Constitution, an amendment, passed in 1993, required that if the Texas legislature created a personal income tax and voters approved it, the revenues would have to be distributed to reduce the property tax for public education (two-thirds of the revenue) and to support public education (one-third of the revenue). 

The combination of rising property taxes to fund public schools, the decline in the percentage of funding for public education that is provided by the state--approximately 36 percent, and the growing number of school districts that are required to share their property tax revenue with poor districts under Chapter 42 has created a perfect storm for a consideration of a personal income tax.

How would it work? In 2005, Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) offered an income tax bill (HB 33) during the first special session of the 79th Legislature. Borrowing the tax rates from that proposal, the chart displays how various income levels would be affected by an income tax.