Although given little to no chance of consideration, let alone passage, Rep. Lon Burnham (D-Fort Worth) introduced a personal income tax bill today. Burnham envisions a system where income over $100,000 would be taxed at 2% rising to 7% of income over $1 million. Burnham says his program would provide a tax reduction for 90% of all Texans, provide $2 billion in new money for schools, and give teachers a $6000 raise to reach the national average. Burnham would also create a "poison tax" on coal (not currently taxed), carcinogenic toxicants, mercury emissions and inefficient power plants.
Gov. Rick PerryTexas Governor Rick Perry says that he believes it is possible to safely use 25% of the state budget surplus for tax reduction and believes that an additional cut in the property tax of 10-cents is now possible. That would provide enough state money to cut the current property tax from $1.50 per $100 of value to .90-cents. However, Perry also left open the possibility of reducing his proposed business tax rate.
The Democratic think tank Center for Public Policy Priorities has issued a paper warning against the use of the state's $8.2 billion surplus to fund a property tax cut. The CPPP notes that $3 billion of the surplus will be needed to replenish the state's Rainy Day Fund and that at least $4 billion will be needed to cover budget growth driven by inflation and population increases in the next budget cycle. The think tank also holds that there are nearly $1 billion in likely expenses for the current budget period the Comptroller cannot include in her spending estimate including $444 million owed to the Federal Government that Texas is contesting in court and up to $100 million in Katrina related expenses. The CPPP agreed the governor's tax plan was a worthwhile reform of the franchise tax but preferred a less drastic cut in property taxes accomplished via increases in the homestead exemption.
The conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation released a statement from its President, Brooke Rollins, today suggesting that the new surplus figures released by the Comptroller make it possible to provide property tax relief without imposing the governor's new tax. The Austin newsletter Quorum Report is reporting that GOP kingmaker Steve Hotze is bottonholing GOP lawmakers to tell them if they vote for the governor's tax bill they will be defeated in 2008.
The Rollins statement: The Foundation has long urged lawmakers to look first to the Texas economy to provide a way out of the school finance morass. The $8.2 billion surplus would provide approximately 35 cents in property tax rate cuts for Texans for two years – taking the school property tax rate from $1.50 to $1.15. This could be done without any new taxes, representing a sound win for all Texans. Surpluses will obviously continue, as they have been a long-standing feature in Texas’ economy, and should be dedicated into the future to reducing tax burdens. Future surpluses could be used to further reduce school property taxes, eliminate burdensome taxes like the franchise tax, or even reduce the sales tax rate ...”
Oil hit an all time high of $70.88 in overnight trading. March housing starts fell 7.8% to their lowest level in more than a year. But core inflation (prices other than food and energy) crept up at only 0.1% or just 1.7% over the past year.
Unexpected April demand owing to record high temperatures are to blame for yesterday's limited rolling blackouts, as state electric generators struggle to keep up with the high demand. A number of plants broke down and went off line during the heat of the day.
North Texans are asked to conserve power again today, to avoid another day of rolling blackouts, even though they're forecasting another day of record high heat, following yesterday's mercury topper of 101 degrees.
And it gets better. The National Climate Prediction Center says that Having a hundred degree day in April indicates we’ll have a toasty spring. The culprit is a warm layer of air in the upper atmosphere.
Former Newsweek Editor and current Editor-at-Large for the Washington Times Arnaud de Borchgrave offers an insightful and perceptive analysis of growing chaos in Central Asia and the middle East and issues a "global storm warning" that is must reading by liberals and conservatives alike.
Gov. Rick Perry has issued the call for the special session. The most interesting part of the call is the authorization "To consider legislation that provides for an appropriation to the Texas Education Agency." This could open up the session to a variety of education initiatives, such as teacher pay raises.
We post the full call below:
Proclamation by the Governor of the State of Texas
TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME: WHEREAS, education is the foundation for the economic and cultural future of the state of Texas and the constitutional responsibility for the development of an efficient system of public education rests with the legislature; and WHEREAS, the current state of public school finance requires immediate action by the legislature to ensure the continued efficient and effective operation of Texas schools due to the Texas Supreme Court’s conclusion that the public education finance system violates article VIII, section 1-e of the Texas Constitution and the Texas Supreme Court has given the legislature until June 1, 2006 to change the public education finance system.; and WHEREAS, the people have placed the constitutional power to call and convene the legislature into special session in the hands of the Chief Executive Officer of the State; NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF TEXAS, by the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section 8, of the Texas Constitution, do hereby call an extraordinary session of the 79th Legislature, to be convened in the city of Austin, commencing at 2 p.m. on Monday the 17th day of April 2006, for the following purposes: To consider legislation that provides for school district property tax relief. To consider legislation that provides for modification of the franchise tax. To consider legislation that provides for modification of the motor vehicle sales and use tax. To consider legislation that provides for modification of the tax on tobacco products. To consider legislation that provides for an appropriation to the Texas Education Agency. The Secretary of State will take notice of this action and will notify the members of the Legislature of my action. IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my Office in the City of Austin, Texas, this the 17th day of April, 2006.
RICK PERRY(Signature) Governor of Texas
Attested by: ROGER WILLIAMS(Signature) Secretary of State
Sen. Florence ShapiroSenate Education Committee chairman Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) filed today SB 1, an education initiative package that includes a teacher pay raise, teacher incentive package, and programs targeted toward high schools. "Our focus should always be on improvement, on taking a student further along than anyone expected he or she could go," Shapiro said. "I believe that with a narrowed focus this special session, we can hone in on these most important aspects of education reform and seize the opportunity to start fresh, with thorough preparation, hard work and lessons learned," Shapiro said.
Shapiro is scheduled to lay out the bill in the Education Committee April 18.