Voters OK Constitutional Amendments: What It Means For Texas | KERA News

Voters OK Constitutional Amendments: What It Means For Texas

Nov 4, 2015

Texans voted overwhelmingly in favor of all seven constitutional amendments on the ballot Tuesday.

The seven items had little in the way of organized opposition. Some, like Proposition 1, did see a push from proponents. That measure gives homeowners an added property tax break – an average of around $125 a year. It also forbids the state from taxing property sales, something the majority of states already do.

Its approval is a win for Scott Kesner. He’s the chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors.

“I think it shows that property owners in Texas definitely want some kind of tax relief,” Kesner said.

Kesner says as property values have gone up across Texas, so has the amount of property taxes people have to pay.

But Steven Poole says he just hopes the Texas Legislature will make good on its promise use state funds to make up the projected $600 million loss for the state’s school districts. Poole is the head of the United Educators Association, which represents more than 23,000 public school employees in North Texas.

“Every two years they adopt a budget and we saw them slash the education budget several years ago,” Poole said. “So we’re lucky that Texas has a strong economy now, but that strong economy we can’t always bank on for the future.”

For the next year, though, the money has already been budgeted.

Dedicating taxes to roads and bridges

The other amendment with an organized “yes” campaign cordons off a portion of sales taxes to fund road and bridge building and maintenance.

Gov. Greg Abbott supported Proposition 7. So did State Sen. Robert Nichols of East Texas.

“We’ve known for 18 years that our method for funding transportation has been inadequate,” Nichols said.

Nichols says it takes years of planning and work before shovels can break ground on new road projects. But declining gas tax revenues and gridlock in Washington make infrastructure funds unreliable. He says the $3 billion a year that Proposition 7 will eventually make available to build roads be a big step toward meeting the state’s growing transportation needs -- at least the road part.

Other amendments: raffles, hunting and more

Texas Christian University political scientist Jim Riddlesperger says transportation questions are rarely partisan.

“If Texas is going to attract tourism, if Texas is going to attract businesses, if we’re going to be competitive with other states, we simply have to have better infrastructure for transportation,” he said.

In addition to infrastructure funding and property tax cuts, voters broadened tax relief to surviving spouses of disabled veterans, loosened rules on charity raffles and road privatization, and gave some state officials the right to move out of Austin.

Texans also now have the constitutional right to hunt and fish.

Mundane matters? Sure, says Riddlesperger. But that’s the way our state government is set up.

“Because the constitution is so limited and limits government in so many way, we have to amend this constitution a half dozen times every two years just to do the business of the state,” he said.

Election Results

Proposition 1 -- increases homestead exemption for school districts from $15,000 to $25,000

For: 86 percent 

Against: 14 percent

Proposition 2 -- allows spouses of disabled veterans who died before 2010 to be eligible for 100 percent property tax exemptions

For: 91 percent

Against: 9 percent

Proposition 3 -- repeals requirement that certain elected officials must live in Austin

For: 66 percent

Against: 34 percent

Proposition 4 -- permits professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct raffles

For: 69 percent

Against: 31 percent

Proposition 5 -- authorizes certain counties to construct and maintain private roads

For: 83 percent

Against: 17 percent

Proposition 6 -- recognizes the right for people to hunt and fish

For: 81 percent

Against: 19 percent

Proposition 7 -- dedicates certain taxes to the state highway fund

For: 83 percent

Against: 17 percent

Photo: CristinaMuraca/Shutterstock.com