Column challenges; Texas taxes blowing in the spring wind

By Ernie Williamson

The Bulletin


It’s challenging to produce a column every week.


During my years at the Houston Post and Houston Chronicle, I figured columnists like Ken Hoffman and the late Leon Hale had the best jobs in the business.


They could write what they wanted and only needed to write a few times a week.


I now know how challenging writing a regularly-scheduled column can be.


I have no idea how John Toth, whose column appears weekly at the far right, has done it all these years.


So far, I have been able to do it for a couple of years, missing only one column.


I was having trouble coming up with an idea this week; then I ran across a couple of interesting items during my reading.


I share the items with you in hopes you find them interesting … and, of course, I chalk up another column and can start worrying about next week.


TAXING RETIREMENT


I was at the new Westside Pearland Library, and an article in Kiplinger’s magazine caught my eye.


A tease on the cover of the respected personal finance magazine touted an article on the most tax-friendly states for retirement.


I figured Texas would be a lock for ranking near the top of the list.


But I was shocked to read our Lone Star state was not near the top of the list. In fact, Kiplinger’s put Texas on the list of the Top Ten Least Tax-Friendly States.


That can’t be, I thought. We are, after all, among a handful of states without an income tax.

Here’s Kiplinger’s reasoning:


Although we don’t have income taxes, Kiplinger’s says our property taxes are the seventh highest in the country.


Believe it or not, we are tied with those Yankees up in New York.


In a hypothetical example, Kiplinger’s says a Texan with a $250,000 house will pay $4,230 in property taxes.


The magazine also points out the state has a 6.25 percent sales tax and that local governments can add another 2 percent. When state and local sales taxes are combined, the average tax rate is 8.19 percent.


That means we have the 14th highest sales tax in the country.


On the bright side, the magazine does point out that seniors may qualify for a $10,000 property tax rate exemption, have their tax bill frozen, and delay paying taxes.


HOW WINDY WAS IT?


Did it seem to you that we had an exceptionally windy spring?


My unscientific wind gauge, a section of my backyard fence that sways on gusty days, indicates to me it has been windier than normal. But I am no weather expert.


So, I went to Space City Weather, my favorite source of sound weather information, and found an interesting online item by Eric Berger, a co-founder of Space City and a former Houston Chronicle colleague.


According to Eric, it has indeed been a windier than normal start to the year.


If we look at “normal” winds over the last 30 years, Eric writes, we see that the highest winds come during the months of February through May with the peak in April.


The average April wind speed in Houston is 8.9 mph. At this writing, we are almost through April, and the average wind speed has been 9.7 mph, nearly 10 percent faster than normal.


February and March had less dramatic increases but increases, nonetheless. February averages 8.4 mph, and winds reached an 8.7 average this year. March’s average is 8.7 but averaged 9.3 this year.


Let’s hope that the trend of windier days doesn’t continue when we get to hurricane season.

My fence won’t make it.


(Contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)