Texas OKs most constitution amendments: Voters support state income tax ban, service animal adoption change | Free

Amendments to the state constitution that would make it harder to enact a state income tax, stabilize funding for state parks and allow retired law enforcement animals to be adopted by their handlers received wide support from voters Tuesday.

Supporters of one of the most contentious issues on the ballot — Proposition 4 — proclaimed victory within hours of the polls closing, with about three fourths of voters supporting the proposal in early voting returns. The proposition authored by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and state Sen. Pat Fallon, R-Prosper, eliminates the possibility of Texas imposing an income tax unless the state changes its constitution again.

The proposal drew ire from left-leaning groups including the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which spent thousands to defeat it. On Election Day, the group ran digital ads in “targeted areas of the state” and sent out two mail pieces to tens of thousands of Texas households, according to a spokesman for the group.

Gov. Greg Abbott declared an early victory on the proposition in a statement Tuesday evening.

“Today’s passage of prop 4 is a victory for taxpayers across the Lone Star State,” he said. “I am grateful to Representative Jeff Leach for his bold leadership on this issue, and for the overwhelming majority of Texans who voted to ensure that our great state will always be free of a state income tax. This ban on such a disastrous tax will keep our economy prosperous, protect taxpayers, and ensure that Texas remains the best state to live, work, and raise a family.”

The only item on the ballot that looked as though it might not pass was Proposition 1, which would permit elected municipal court judges to serve multiple municipalities at the same times. With votes still being counted late Tuesday, returns indicated that it had received just over one-third of the vote.

The other propositions were poised to pass easily. Proposition 5 would stabilize funding for state parks and received overwhelming support. The proposition allows money accumulated from existing sales tax on sporting goods to be used for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission. Current law allows the Legislature to allocate that money however they see fit.

Proposition 10, which had the highest level of support, amends the state constitution to allow retired service animals, such as dogs or horses, to be adopted by their handlers or other qualified caretakers. These animals are currently classified as surplus property or salvage and can be “auctioned, donated or destroyed.”

Proposition 6, which allows for an increase of bonds allocated to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas received nearly two-thirds support, according to unofficial results.

Voters were also overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 8 which would set aside $800 million from the state’s rainy day fund for flood mitigation efforts. The amendment was approved by the Legislature following Hurricane Harvey’s devastation along the Texas coast. The proposition netted about three-fourths of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Another Harvey-related item, Proposition 3, also passed easily. The ballot initiative allows the Legislature to provide temporary tax breaks for people with property damaged in governor-declared disaster areas. The resolution and its legislation were approved by the Legislature unanimously earlier this year.

Voter turnout

Turnout in constitutional amendment elections is historically low. In 2013, only 1.1 million voted. In 2011, only 690,052 Texans showed up — of the 12.8 million who were registered to vote at the time — to vote on 10 amendments.

But in Lamar County this year voters took to the polls in droves, as elections coordinator Tricia Johnson said it was the largest turnout she’d ever seen for a constitutional amendment election. In total, 2,771 voters cast ballots in the election, with 1,790 ballots being cast on Election Day.

In the previous constitutional amendment election, barely 400 people voted in total, Johnson said.

“Proposition 4 is what brought all the people out because they really got invested in the talk about a possible income tax, and word spread about it,” she said. “In fact, I’d say roughly 85% of the ballots that were cast only voted on Proposition 4 and ignored the rest.”

Turnout was so much higher than expected that polling places ran out of ballots, and voters were forced to use ballot proofs, as state protocol states. However, those couldn’t be run through the ballot counting machine and had to be counted by hand.

“The last time we ran out of ballots was back in 2008, and, of course, that was a presidential election year,” Johnson said.

Proposition 1 was a loser among Red River Valley voters with 61.83% of Lamar County voters, 64.03% of Red River County voters, 66.78% of Delta County voters and 64.26% of Fannin County voters voting it down.

Proposition 2 found support with 63.74% of Lamar County voters, 88.45% of Red River County voters, 60.99% of Delta County voters and 59.55% of Fannin County voters in favor of the amendment to provide for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board.

Proposition 3 found overwhelming support as 87.77% of Lamar County voters, 87.99% of Red River County voters, 83.61% of Delta County voters and 84.84% of Fannin County voters favoring it.

Proposition 4 was strongly approved by Lamar County voters, 86.31%; Red River County voters, 89.44%; Delta County voters, 87.95%; and Fannin County voters, 89.59%. As was Proposition 5, which found support among 88.98% of Lamar County voters, 87.65% of Red River County voters, 87.63% of Delta County voters and 86.44% of Fannin County voters.

Proposition 6 found approval with 62.52% of Lamar County voters, 70.64% of Red River County voters, 58.4% of Delta County voters and 55.81% of Fannin County voters, while Proposition 7, to allow state entities to double the amount of revenue they can provide the Available School Fund each year, was supported by 71.84% of Lamar County voters, 75.67% of Red River County voters, 65.03% of Delta County voters and 65.82% of Fannin County voters.

Proposition 8 also was largely supported, finding favor with 72.91% of Lamar County voters, 70.69% of Red River County voters, 64.14% of Delta County voters and 68.9% of Fannin County voters.

Proposition 9, which would allow the legislature to create a property tax exemption for precious metals held in state depositories, found support with 59.65% of Lamar County voters, 60.48% of Red River County voters, 54.87% of Delta County voters and 56.12% of Fannin County voters.

And Proposition 10 was a blowout — just more than 95% of Lamar County voters, 94.73% of Red River County voters, 94.79% of both Delta and Fannin county voters in favor of it.