DEWHURST ANNOUNCES END OF TECH FUND TAX
(AUSTIN) — Texas consumers could see a slight drop in their telecommunications bill, as a tax used to build technology infrastructure expires. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst announced at a press conference Thursday the end of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF) tax on service providers. This program was used to improve connections at rural schools and hospitals, but Dewhurst said it has fulfilled its purpose. "This has been a good program, it's literally wired the state for a lot of people, for our schools, so there's been a lot of benefit. The job had been done, so we eliminated the tax, over the next three years, we're going to reduce $600 million in taxes for Texas taxpayers," he said. "I think that's good news."
Dewhurst also took the opportunity address the impact of the current economic crisis on Texas. While the rest of the country endures an economic downturn, Dewhurst said the Texas economy remains strong. "Obviously, around the country, these are tough times. but we're in pretty good shape here in Texas, because we've had to make some hard decisions over the past couple of years," he said. He pointed to the $1.4 billion reduction in property tax rates passed last session, as well as a lower tax rate compared to other states, and pro-growth business policies as reasons Texas should weather the economic storm. "We've tried to be very conservative over the last five years, we tried to keep our taxes low here in Texas. We tried to make sure that in the legislature, any time we saw a speed bump to the growth of our economy, we kicked that speed bump down."
Though the state could see a small surplus as the Legislature begins session in January, Dewhurst told reporters that lawmakers must continue this trend of fiscal conservatism. He warned that the new business tax looks to bring in $1.4 billion less than was estimated, and that costs to the state from Hurricane Ike could range in to the billions of dollars. Combined with rising growth, rising fuel costs, and a possible increase in the state's Medicaid burden, he said legislators must be very careful with spending.