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The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 11, 2011

It's no Texas vs. the feds, but in Texas vs. Amazon.com, the state's latest high-profile battle of the wits, things just got testy.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

It's no Texas vs. the feds, but in Texas vs. Amazon.com, the state's latest high-profile battle of the wits, things just got testy.

In an ostensibly unusual move in a state that's nearly become synonymous with a business-friendly atmosphere, the online mega-retailer — citing a dispute over sales tax — announced Thursday that it would close its Irving distribution facility in April and has canceled plans to hire up to 1,000 workers in the state.

"Despite much hard work and the support of other Texas officials, we’ve been unable to come to a resolution with the Texas comptroller’s office," Amazon wrote in a letter to its employees announcing the move.

Amazon's beef stems from $269 million in past-due sales tax the comptroller demanded from the company in October. Texas, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring companies to collect sales tax in states in which they've established a physical presence, has long sought to collect from Amazon — which sued the state in response to the demand. Other states have waged similar battles.

"We regret losing any business in the state of Texas," said Allen Spelce, a spokesman for the comptroller’s office. "But our position hasn’t changed: If you have a physical business presence in the state of Texas, you owe sales tax."

Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness, a trade group, called Amazon's move "callous," according to The Dallas Morning News. "Amazon could have chosen to collect the sales tax as Texas retailers do," he said, "but instead they opted to protect their special sales tax loophole to the detriment of hardworking families."

CULLED:

  • The possible closing of four of the state's community colleges dominated the conversation surrounding higher education with the release of initial budget proposals last month. But as the Tribune's Christopher A. Smith reports, another proposal that would hit all such schools across the state has community college officials most worried: major cuts to employee health benefits.
  • Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief's announced Thursday that he won't seek re-election, ending a storied 40-year political career and setting off a scramble among several city politicians looking to succeed him.
  • U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's officially raising money, which can only mean one thing, or two now, with speculation pointing at possible runs for the presidency or the Senate. "As I look to my political future, there are several intriguing options I could pursue, and I need to gauge the existing financial support to back those options," he said in an e-mail to supporters.

"Well, no one will accuse our last speaker of sucking up to an audience."Ted Cruz, the U.S. Senate candidate and former state solicitor general, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, referring to Donald Trump, who'd just told the crowd of attendees that "Ron Paul cannot get elected. I'm sorry. ... Honestly, he just has zero chance of getting elected."

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