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Texas voters approve state income tax ban, most other constitutional amendments

AUSTIN – 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.

SEE SAN ANTONIO-AREA ELECTION RESULTS HERE

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.

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.

Any changes to the Texas Constitution must be approved by a majority of Texas voters. Getting a proposed amendment on the ballot requires support from more than two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature.

In addition to the constitutional amendments, Harris County voters had several other contentious elections on the ballot, including its mayoral race, city council elections and a state House special election.

Disclosure: Center for Public Policy Priorities has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2019/11/05/texas-constitutional-amendments-uniform-election-results-2019/.