Glenn Hegar

A Big Idea, With a Big Price Tag

by Ross Ramsey

Property taxes are easy to hate, and Texas property taxes are high enough to turn this civic irritation into a full-blown political issue.

So it makes news when a candidate for comptroller of public accounts — the state’s tax collector, treasurer and all-around ace of finance — is running around saying he would like to get rid of property taxes. Glenn Hegar, a state senator who won the Republican nomination for comptroller in this month’s primary, was unequivocal in his remarks about the fairness of those taxes at a Tea Party forum in February, as reported by the Killeen Daily Herald: “As long as we pay taxes we have to ask, do we really own our property?”

His opponent, Mike Collier, a Democrat, is trying to turn a 26-second video snippet of Hegar suggesting an end to property taxes into a fundraising and vote-getting machine. He contends that the Republican is proposing a sharp increase in sales taxes to offset the elimination of property taxes.

Hegar, who has been in the Legislature since 2003, is not running away, other than to say he might phase out the tax instead of ditching it all at once. “I have said since I first ran that I preferred a consumption tax,” he said this week. “I have not backtracked in any way from any statement.”

The idea of eliminating property taxes falls nicely in line with some of the original leanings of the Tea Party, which began with concerns about government spending, debt and taxation. It rolls easily from a political tongue: Kill property taxes and rely instead on consumption taxes, which taxpayers control by simply controlling their spending.

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