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December 5, 2003   
(512) 463-0300

Legislative Committee Completes Second Day of Public School Finance Meeting

AUSTIN - The Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance met today, December 5, 2003 to complete a busy two-day schedule of invited testimony. The Committee has been charged with the difficult task of trying to address the pressing concerns in the Texas Public School System. The state is currently facing lawsuits related to school funding. Many citizens in the public and those involved in the legislature are expecting a special legislative session in 2004 over public school finance

Providing insight through experience was Carole Vilardo, President of the State of Nevada Taxpayers Association. Vilardo outlined Nevada's payroll tax to illustrate how Texas could restructure it's payroll tax system to make it easier for contract employees to come in from other states.

The committee also heard from a panel testifying on cigarette tax including Danny McGoldrick, Director of Research for Tobacco Free Kids, Texans for Healthy Investment and Dr. Bill Orzechowski of Tobacco Tax Burden, Orzechowski & Walker. Both men presented the committee with facts from which they will try to form a decision on whether or not taxes from cigarettes--also commonly referred to as a "user fee" by the legislature--should be raised in order to provide funds.

In addition, a Business Activity Tax (VAT) panel brought information before the committee. David Hartman, Chairman of The Lone Star Foundation answered questions from the committee on pros and cons of Texas current Business Tax systems. Pat Reynolds, of State Tax Planning and Controversy Manager Tax Services of J.C. Penney Corporation added an outline of the Michigan-style single business tax, one of the suggested models for Texas to use in this tax restructuring.

The Joint Select Committee on Public School finance is Co-chaired by Senator Florence Shapiro and Representative Kent Grusendorf. Members from the Legislature include Senators Teel Bivins, Eddie Lucio, Steve Ogden, Todd Staples and Leticia Van de Putte as well as Representatives Talmadge Heflin, Fred Hill, Vilma Luna, Ken Marchant and Ron Wilson. Public Members include Carolyn Bacon, Caroline Hoxby, Jack Ladd and Don McAdams. The committee stands adjourned.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.