THE BIG CONVERSATION:
The State Comptroller of Public Accounts put another positive spin on what some see as a harsh reality on Wednesday. Sales tax collections were down last month compared to the same time last year, said a statement from Comptroller Susan Combs, but it also marked the second consecutive month revenues declined by less than 10 percent.
The state hauled in about $1.46 billion in sales tax revenue last month, signaling a 7.8 percent decline from March 2009.
“For the second month in a row, the decline in sales tax collections continued to moderate,” Combs said in the news release. “Following an eight-month stretch of double-digit declines, the pace of revenue losses is slowing."
In January collections were more than 14 percentage points lower than in January 2009.
“The oil and gas, construction, manufacturing, and retail industries registered lower sales tax revenue collections than one year earlier,” she explained and added, despite the brief optimism, that her office “expect(s) further declines in the near term followed by a return to sales tax revenue growth later this year.”
The Austin American-Statesman did point out, however, “there are some bright spots on the state landscape, including a 12 percent increase in motor vehicle sales tax collections from the same month last year.” That boost, cites reporter Kate Alexander, could be due in part to “enticing” offers made by Toyota following the company’s highly publicized criticism over recent manufacture recalls.
- U.S. Reps Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, on Wednesday joined a U.S. delegation in Mexico City to discuss an increased effort by the United States’ government to curb the violence plaguing Mexico. The El Paso Times reported the meeting revolved around the latest installment of the Merida Initiative, the $1.4 billion aid package to Mexico that comes in the form of training, intelligence-sharing and equipment and was signed into law in 2007. Also on Wednesday, Mexican troops deployed the eastern outskirts of Juarez after reports of a surge in murders and threats in the rural and impoverished outskirts of the city.
- Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm urged voters in U.S. House District 17 to oust Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards, D-Waco, claiming the key to Republicans taking back control of the 435 member House of Representatives was the election of challenger Bill Flores. The Dallas Morning News reports that Gramm targeted Edwards for “voting to raise the federal debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion in February, and less than a week later, appealing to donors by casting the election as a fight over ‘returning fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets to Washington.’”
Watching for signs of suicide — San Antonio Express-News
TEA’s Study on Katrina Students Raises Questions — Austin American-Statesman
The Inquisition — The Texas Tribune
We're 49th! ... Or Just Seventh of 10 — The Austin Chronicle