There's evidence, from donation totals and turnout, both in the 2018 election and at rallies like the one held by President Donald Trump in Dallas a couple of weeks ago, that North Texas is more engaged than ever politically. The region is the epicenter of the 2020 fight over the Texas House and is perhaps the base for political power in the state. That doesn't mean there aren't some things that even the die-hards don't care about, however.
Texas, as seemingly no one is aware, has a general election this week. Tuesday, voters who didn't vote early can cast their ballots on 10 state constitutional amendments, several of which are actually worth giving a damn about.
Proposition 4 would make it significantly harder for Texas to implement a state income tax, if the political winds in Austin ever shift. Progressives and Democrats across the state have lined up against the proposal, which received legislative approval from the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature this spring.
From the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities:
"Future voters might want to turn to an income tax to reduce our state’s heavy reliance on just two sources of revenue – sales and property taxes – to support state and local services. States without an income tax rely on property taxes for 39 percent of tax revenue, while in states with an income tax, property taxes are counted on for only 31 percent of tax revenue. Similarly, sales taxes account for 44 percent of tax revenue in non-income-tax states, but only 33 percent in income-tax states. States with three major sources of tax revenue can balance the advantages and disadvantages of each type of tax – particularly their fairness and volatility – to achieve a stable source of support. States without an income tax are more susceptible to economic fluctuations and have tax systems that take a higher proportion of the income of lower and middle-income families than of higher income families."
Progress Texas warns that Proposition 4 could be a Trojan horse for more regressive plans for revenue generation.
“Texas voters, don’t get fooled. Prop 4 is a Republican attempt to justify a sales tax hike in future legislative sessions, negatively impacting working Texans,” Ed Espinoza, executive director at Progress Texas, said last week. “The Texas constitution already requires voter approval for an income tax. Prop 4 is unnecessary and takes decision-making power away from future generations, including their ability to address public policy needs such as education and access to affordable health care.”
Down the ballot, Proposition 9 would exempt those who place precious metals in state depositories from paying property taxes on those metals — good for gold bugs! — and, perhaps most importantly, Proposition 10, the last on the ballot, would allow law enforcement officers who handle canine officers to take the dogs home when the dogs retire.
As things are now, police dogs are required to be auctioned as surplus government property when they retire.
"Without this law being in place, you've got to go home and tell your 10-year-old why they don't have their dog anymore," David McClelland, the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department chief of staff, told the Texas Tribune earlier this year about what handlers face when their dog gets too old or too sick to continue his or her work for law enforcement.
The amendments matter, as does the Texas House race that's on West and Northwest Dallas residents' ballots. But so far, according to the Dallas County elections office, county residents simply aren't showing up to vote.
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Of the 1,327,744 registered voters in the county, exactly 24,815 had cast ballots through Thursday, the next to last day of early voting.
That's 1.9% turnout. If early voters and election day voters hold to the same proportions they held to in the midterms — roughly two-thirds of Dallas County voters cast ballots early in 2018 — turnout for this year's election will be a whopping 2.8%.
It doesn't have to be that way. For the first time, Dallas County is participating in the state's countywide polling place program this year. If you can find five minutes to vote on Tuesday anywhere in the county, you can cast your ballot. Home precincts aren't a thing anymore.
Get out there and vote, Dallas, the dogs are counting on you.