Every two years, Texans are asked to vote on obscure, often picayune policy proposals. Our overly specific and restrictive state constitution often has to be revised.
This year is no exception. Voters have to weigh in on water-project bonds, flood control and whether the state can move more money from one education fund few have heard of to another even fewer know about.
But it’s the only constitution Texas has, and responsible voters should consider this year’s 10 propositions carefully. Most are worthy of support. Here are our recommendations:
Proposition 1: Yes
Staffing governments can be tough in rural parts of Texas. This amendment would let an elected municipal judge hold the position for more than one area, something an appointed judge can already do. It’s a small but sensible change to help these communities.
Proposition 2: Yes
The Texas Water Development Board would be able to issue up to $200 million in bonds to pay for water and sewer projects in economically disadvantaged areas. Many are along the border with Mexico and badly need improved service.
Proposition 3: Yes
This amendment would allow temporary property tax exemptions in areas hit by disasters. This is a compassionate idea for helping Texans at a time of crisis, but the Legislature should take care to ensure that local governments aren’t deprived of funding at a time that they need to foster recovery from storms and other tragedies.
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
Hey, who writes these editorials?
Editorials are the positions of the Editorial Board, which serves as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s institutional voice. The members of the board are: Cynthia M. Allen, columnist; Steve Coffman, executive editor; Bud Kennedy, columnist; Juan Antonio Ramos, editorial director of La Estrella, the Star-Telegram’s bilingual publication; and Ryan J. Rusak, opinion editor. Most editorials are written by Rusak and edited by Coffman. Editorials are unsigned because they represent the board’s consensus positions, not the views of individual writers.
Read more by clicking the arrow in the upper right.
How are topics and positions chosen?
The Editorial Board meets regularly to discuss issues in the news and what points should be made in editorials. We strive to build a consensus to produce the strongest editorials possible, but when we differ, we put matters to a vote.
The board aims to be consistent with stances it has taken in the past but usually engages in a fresh discussion based on new developments and different perspectives.
We focus on local and state news, though we will also weigh in on national issues with an eye toward their impact on Texas or the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
How are these different from news articles or signed columns?
News reporters strive to keep their opinions out of what they write. They have no input on the Editorial Board’s stances. The board consults their reporting and expertise but does its own research for editorials.
Signed columns by writers such as Allen, Kennedy and Rusak contain the writer’s personal opinions.
Proposition 4: Yes
Texas doesn’t have an income tax, and that won’t change based on what happens with this amendment. Currently, lawmakers would have to approve such a tax with a simple majority and ask voters to do the same in a statewide election. This amendment would boost the needed vote in each house of the Legislature to two-thirds.
The bar to a major new tax should be high. But Texans aggrieved by high property and sales taxes should recognize that it’ll be difficult to ever substantially reduce those without a major new source of revenue.
Proposition 5: Yes
Lawmakers love accounting tricks that help the state balance the books. One is to keep sales taxes on sporting goods, meant to be dedicated to state parks and historical preservation, in general revenue accounts. This amendment would help parks get the boost they’re meant to have and strike a blow for truth in taxation.
And it could hit close to home: The funding could help develop Palo Pinto Mountains Park west of Fort Worth, once private fundraising reaches the necessary level.
Proposition 6: Yes
Voters agreed in 2007 to create the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, backed with $3 billion in bonds. This amendment would authorize another $3 billion. After some initial stumbles in governance, the initiative has found its footing. It’s a good investment for Texas, but after this, the Legislature needs to find a way to ensure long-term funding without further debt.
Proposition 7: Yes
This is the aforementioned school funding provision. Currently, the state can draw $300 million a year from the Permanent School Fund, which earns money from Texas land and mineral rights, and move it to the Available School Fund, which helps pay for instructional materials.
The amendment would raise that limit to $600 million. State investment managers and accountants, overseen by elected officials, can be trusted to make prudent withdrawals.
Proposition 8: Yes
Voters should approve a new flood control fund, to be created with money taken from the state’s amply supplied rainy day fund. It will allow for important regional planning of projects.
Proposition 9: No
This amendment is a solution in search of a problem. It would exempt from property taxes any precious metals deposited at a state facility, such as the Texas Bullion Depository lawmakers voted to create in 2016. Proponents argue that taxes would put the depository at a competitive disadvantage, but no Texas government currently taxes them or seems poised to start.
If regulation actually becomes necessary, lawmakers should handle it without altering the constitution.
Proposition 10: Yes
A police dog might put in years of service with one handler, faithfully helping protect Texans. When the time comes for retirement, the best thing for any such animal is to live out its days with its human. This amendment would ensure that they can do so without the handler paying a fee, overriding rules that require excess government property to be sold or auctioned.
If we have to vote on so many obscure policies, at least we can take satisfaction in rewarding good dogs — and their human counterparts.