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Congressman needs to support Internet sales tax

By BY DAVID HAGAN
Aug. 17, 2013 at 3:17 a.m.


History has put Congressman Blake Farenthold in the unique position in which he will either stop great harm from being inflicted on the people of Texas or allow it to continue as a result of his serving on the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, now considering legislation to end the preferential treatment given Internet retailers that lets them off the hook from collecting and remitting sales taxes like everybody else.

Too many Republicans in Congress, including Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, think that American voters are too dumb to understand this issue and have asked the House Judiciary Committee to stall or water down legislation to correct this unfair and ridiculous situation that flat-out robs billions of dollars in sales from our Texas stores, sales taxes owed to our state, and economic productivity for our citizens.

There is no good reason to continue this special treatment for Internet retailers - especially when it so clearly hurts Texas families and our economy. It's time for Congressman Farenthold to stand up to the eBay bullies and other out-of-state interests who have cynically spread lies and innuendo and duped some politicians, who should know better, into thinking that closing this loophole is the same as a tax increase or undue burden on small business just so they can continue to line their pockets as a result of this sweetheart deal at everybody else's expense.

Every retail store here in Victoria, Corpus Christi, Houston, Dallas and in every community in the state of Texas - ranging from large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's and J.C. Penny to each and every small, one-of-a-kind book store, gun shop, florist, music store, clothing boutique and other establishments - is placed at a competitive disadvantage in this low-margin industry versus these Internet retailers who don't have to collect sales taxes.

President Ronald Reagan's economist, Art Laffer, in his authoritative analysis released just a few weeks ago, estimates that the state of Texas will lose 158,000 jobs and almost $62.9 billion in State Gross Domestic Product over the next decade if Congress doesn't take action to close this loophole that has long outlived its purpose. How can we ignore such benefit to our state and try to duck this issue again in 2013 as we have in previous years?

Conservative Republicans Joe Barton, Mike Conaway and Ted Poe of the Texas Delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives are cosponsors of H.R. 684, "The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013," that will put our Texas "brick and mortar" stores on a level playing field with these out-of-state Internet sellers and bring the jobs and money now being stolen from us back to Texas where it belongs. Texas Democrats Eddie Bernice-Johnson and Mark Veasey are also among the 66 cosponsors of this legislation.

The American Farm Bureau, American Conservative Union, the 66-member Texas Legislative Tea Party Caucus, Texas Retailers Association and many local Chambers of Commerce, county judges and other leaders across our state support H.R. 684.

The retail industry provides more than 2 million jobs in the state of Texas. How many jobs do you think Internet retailers provide? Why are we kowtowing to these people?

To those who say that collecting these taxes is just too complicated for the Internet retailers, I say, "Give us a break." With today's technology, can we really believe that these cutting-edge companies can't figure out how to collect and remit sales taxes just like our mom-and-pop local retailers have been doing for the past hundred years - even when the bill requires that the states give them the software to do it free of charge?

The U.S. Senate has already passed its bill on this subject. However, Speaker Boehner recently said on national television that the House of Representatives should be judged by what it doesn't do, not on what it accomplishes - and we know that that very few bills have passed that chamber in recent years. H.R. 684 or something very much like it needs to be an exception to this "rule."

Congressman Farenthold, it's hard to understand why you didn't sign on as a cosponsor of this bill months ago like your more senior colleagues in the Texas Delegation. The people of Texas deserve the economic benefit that will result from your helping pass H.R. 684. We need the economic growth and jobs and to be able to collect the taxes already owed our state - tax revenue otherwise made up some other way. We need you to join with your colleagues in the Congress to bring home the bacon on this no-brainer. That's why you're there. So please, don't let us down.

David Hagan is the mayor pro tem of the Victoria City Council and the councilman for District 4. Contact him with questions or comments at 361-570-8355 or by email at dhagan@victoriatx.org.

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