DEWHURST DISCUSSES SENATE PLANS FOR TAX REFORM PACKAGE
The Texas Senate will work through the weekend so it can consider new ways to fund public education and cut property taxes early next week.
The bills, passed by the House on Monday, would use about $2.4 billion to buy down the current property tax rate by 17 cents in 2007, broaden the business tax base, and increase the sales tax on cigarettes and used motor vehicles. But Lt. Governor David Dewhurst questions whether the plan would allow lawmakers to reduce the property tax rate all the way to $1 per $100 valuation within two years.
The question facing the Legislature, said Dewhurst, is how to use the remaining surplus and how to adjust the revenue rates in the tax plan. He said that the tax measures passed by the House would provide about $4.3 billion in revenue in 2008, which would fund a property tax cut of 33-35 cents.
This weekend, the Senate Finance Committee will consider how to use some of the additional surplus, whether to buy down the tax rate further or put more dollars toward educational improvements such as a teacher pay raise or increased accountability measures.
Dewhurst doesn't want to rely too heavily on the budget surplus to pay for tax cuts. He says budget analysts from the Legislative Budget Board and the Federal Reserve, forecast that the Texas economy might see less growth in the future. "They all tell me the same thing. It looks like today, and I hope it changes tomorrow, but it looks like today that our economy will slow down a little bit next year," he said. "If that occurs, the current surplus is going to be a one-time source of revenue that we can't count on going forward."