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by William Lutz    Sat, Oct 29, 2005, 12:57 PM

 He’s making a list. And checking it twice. He’s going to tell whose naughty and nice.

John Sharp
No, we’re not talking about Santa Claus. We’re talking about John Sharp, the former state comptroller and head of Gov. Rick Perry’s tax commission. Sharp issued a pointed warning to the business community in a speech to the Texas Association of Business Oct. 28. “I don’t have an agenda now or in the future. And so at the end of this process I will tell you who was naughty and who was nice. If it dies, I’ll tell you who did it. If it passes, I’ll tell you who did that too. But this is a time where we ought to be Texans. Forget about party. Forget about who gets credit.”

Sharp also discussed his tax commission, its mandate, and his ideas on tax reform. Sharp made it clear that both he and Perry oppose a state income tax. Sharp told the audience that as comptroller, he seldom heard poor or rich Texans call for an income tax. The most frequent advocates for an income tax, he said, were large corporations. ”They want the tax on their employees, rather than on corporate profits,” Sharp said. “You can’t blame them for that. All that an income tax is, after you boil it down, is a tax on the middle class … If and when we get an income tax in the State of Texas, it will not come from the left. It will come from the very largest corporations in the State of Texas because those are the people who will benefit primarily from an income tax. It won’t be small business, and it won’t be middle class folks.”

Another concern topping the Sharp speech is the decline in Texas manufacturing. “We treat the folks who are the service end or the consumption end of services in the State of Texas better than we treat the folks to make the jobs … That’s what has to change. The debate that we hope to start is a debate about what it does to the economy of the State of Texas to have such a heavy [tax] burden fall on capital expenditures and capital construction. i.e. Manufacturing of all kinds and things like that. Because that’s the problem. If we can find a way to lower that and spread that evenly and fairly through the rest of the economy, than that’s something that we ought to be looking for.

Finally, Sharp told attendees that the committee is sensitive to the concerns of middle class homeowners and small business. He noted that large corporations can get property tax abatements but small business creates most of the jobs in America. He noted that a choice of business taxes could be an option the committee considers.

Sharp predicted the other members of his committee will be named soon, possibly next week. He pledged an open and transparent process. The committee will office in the old insurance building in Austin. Sharp invited all interested Texans and businesses to give input to the commission.

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