Thank you for smoking

Is the Perry-Sharp proposal meaningful tax reform or are they just blowing smoke?

Is it ironic or just a weird sense of timing? Who knows why things happen when they do. But it is funny that the movie version of Christopher Buckley’s hilarious, satiric novel “Thank You For Smoking” has hit theaters just as the Texas Legislature is about to enter on April 17, a sixth special session on funding public schools. You would think the Lege is the hardest working “deliberative” body in show business. But you would be wrong.

This sixth attempt to undo the state’s school finance system will take up what is strangely called the Perry-Sharp tax proposal. I say strangely because it is named after our Republican Gov. Rick “Goodhair” Perry and John Sharp. Democrat Sharp is the former state comptroller and who lost the race for lieutenant governor to Republican David Dewhurst.

Sharp chaired a state tax reform commission that looked at ways to replace the present system of funding schools with property tax known as the “Robin Hood” system. It is called Robin Hood because the system was designed by a fellow named Sherwood Forrest. Only kidding! The school finance scheme basically takes property tax money from the rich school districts and gives that money to wealthy fatcats who smoke cigars on their yachts. Only kidding dos! Poor school districts get tax money from the rich districts. And the state’s supreme court said: “No can do.”

Robin Hood came after years of back-and-forth about how to fund public schools. It seems like this issue has been around all my life and I’m 50 years old. Now the Perry-Sharp proposal would supposedly have lower property taxes without Robin Hood, with adjustments to the state’s business tax and by raising the tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack.

“If Texans want a fairer and broader business tax without loopholes, a stable source of revenue for our children’s education, and substantial property tax relief, then we’ve got a plan that works for them,” Perry said in a press release.

If grandma had balls she’d be … Shaquille O’Neal. It would almost seem the governor is saying to Texans: “Smoke ’em if you got ’em. If you don’t got ’em, go out and get ’em.”

It’s really kind of weird when you think about it. A good portion of the school finance proposal is based on people firing up an addictive drug. Why not crack? It is a plan worthy of the MOD Squad.

The movie “Thank You For Smoking” is about the lives of three lobbyists who represent, respectively, the alcohol, tobacco and firearms industries. They call themselves the MOD Squad, MOD being an acronym for “Merchants of Death.” It is a very funny novel and I hope the movie does it justice.

Your guess is as good as mine as to whether the tax plan will be adopted in the special session. The fact that it is the sixth special session should give you a clue. Gov. Rick may end up telling Texans: “Thank you for smoking.” But he won’t be thanking me because I quit. Thank goodness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *