State Sen. Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, would rather raise taxes a little bit than make the cuts lawmakers are considering now, he said this evening.
Deuell has been a proponent of a 10-cent increase in gasoline taxes for some time — since before his Republican primary and general election victories last year — and said he would support a broader sales tax too. He also said the state should use "most" of the $9.4 billion Rainy Day Fund.
"I think it's raining, and I would hate to make cuts this session and come back in two years and find out we didn't have to make those cuts," he said.
Deuell is on the Senate Finance Committee and sits on its subcommittee on Medicaid; that panel will vote Wednesday morning on that part of the budget and send it up to the full committee.
"We're the 45th-lowest tax state," Deuell said. "I'm not chomping at the bit to be number 44, but we're a low-tax state and we've got people in need."
He said none of this is new. The Senate voted unanimously a few years ago on an ultimately doomed package that would have swapped several state levies — including an expanded sales tax — for lower local school property taxes. Something else ultimately passed, but the idea of getting rid of some sales tax exemptions, he said, isn't a new one.
"The guy who cuts my lawn pays sales taxes," Deuell said. "The gal who cuts my hair doesn't. Is that fair?"
Deuell defended his position as a conservative one, though he acknowledged that it's not the company line for a Republican. He'd raise gasoline taxes and index them to inflation, an idea he said Gov. Rick Perry opposes. And he said conservative activists — he mentioned Austin-based Michael Quinn Sullivan by name — aren't wild about his stand, either. He said the cuts required by the current budget would be more damaging to the state than the tax increases he's talking about.
"All these things that have helped Texas in this bad economy — we're talking about getting rid of them," he said.