Taxpayer (Bio)hazard

Self-described “one tough grandma” Carole Keeton Strayhorn, former Austin mayor turned Republican comptroller turned independent gubernatorial candidate, is back in the news. She’s now supporting a massive tax hike in Travis County to fund (depending on who you ask) a medical school for UT, free health care for the poor, a state-of-the-art medical center for all diseases known to man, a training center for post-graduate doctors, and free pony rides downtown.

That last one isn’t actually on the list, but it might as well be.


Strayhorn

In a radio ad featuring Ms. Strayhorn, she says approving the tax hike will “improve the health of families and neighbors.” How that is to be accomplished is left vague. Well, except for raising your taxes, which is the prescription to all of life’s ills according to big government politicians like Mrs. Strayhorn.

(You might recall that after losing as an “independent” running for governor, Strayhorn tried to run for comptroller again as a Democrat.)

Advocates for the tax hike say the money to the county’s Central Health district is necessary to open a medical school. But,the district isn’t in the medical-school-business. That falls to the University of Texas, which, despite its multi-billion dollar endowment, recently said they’d only operate a medical school in Austin if local taxpayers pay for it. (Sounds like they don’t really want one, if they won’t fund it themselves.)

And lest we think central Texas is bereft of medical schools, there is one just minutes north of Austin in Round Rock, run by Texas A&M, and one an hour south of Austin already run by the University of Texas.

This means the Travis County health district would be paying for one thing while selling something else. It sounds like a classic a bait-and-switch.

In her radio ad, Strayhorn says the “modest” tax hike of 63 percent would ensure a “powerful pay-off.” This is true if she is talking about people connected to big government, but not if she is talking about taxpayers.

Proponents claim building a medical school would alleviate an alleged “doctor shortage” in central Texas.

It’s a nice soundbyte, but that’s not how the medical marketplace works. Doctors – like all people seeking employment or to open a business – go where there is work, a good standard of living, predictable taxes, low regulations, and a friendly tort environment. If doctors aren’t coming to central Texas, a new medical school won’t bring them here.

Conversely, if the area is truly under-served and a need is present, entrepreneurial physicians will load up UHauls and head to Austin. That’s how the marketplace works.

Raising taxes for ill-defined and vacuous ends might make some people feel good, and even provide big payouts for a privileged few, but for more taxpayers, Travis County’s Central Health ballot proposition is simply unhealthy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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