The Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society." And we taxpayers know we've been asked to pay that price on a dizzying variety of goods and activities — even the ones that aren't good for us.
In this issue of Fiscal Notes, we continue our examination of the taxes that support Texas' state and local governments. This time, we look at the curious category often called sin taxes.
Sin taxes traditionally include those levied on tobacco and alcohol. The revenues raised by state-sanctioned gambling, such as pari-mutuel racing and state lotteries, are often counted as well. They're a small but important part of Texas' tax structure and may (or may not) spur us to cut back on bad habits, too.
We also examine "set-asides," the portion reserved from tuition at public universities to support financial aid for those who lack the funds for college. Set-asides have become ever more important as the cost of college continues to soar, but some question whether they should be replaced by direct state funding for student aid.
Finally, we take a look at "microlending," small loans made by nonprofits to support beginning businesses and encourage the growth of local economies. In South Texas in particular, microloans have helped thousands of people who couldn't obtain traditional loans start businesses, creating jobs for their neighbors and strengthening their communities as well.
As always, I hope you enjoy this issue!
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts