The Brief: March 4, 2015

Senate budget writers in the middle of what they are describing as "Tax Relief Week" expressed remorse en masse at having created the business margins tax in 2006.

Senators Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen and Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, listen to DPS Director Steve McCraw testify Dec. 1, 2014 at the Legislative Budget Board meeting at the State Capitol.

The Big Conversation

Senate budget writers in the middle of what they are describing as "Tax Relief Week" expressed remorse en masse at having created the business margins tax in 2006.

The Dallas Morning News' Bob Garrett reported that Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, went so far as to say“I will say I wish I hadn’t voted for that franchise tax.”

The regret expressed on Tuesday cut across party lines. Doing something about it will prove difficult even though the margins tax hasn't performed as projected.

The Tribune's Aman Batheja writes:

The tax has never brought in as much as was originally estimated. Business groups have complained that it unfairly hits certain businesses harder than others and forces some businesses to pay it even in years when they don’t make a profit.

Doing away with the margins tax would require replacing $4.7 billion a year, nearly as much as Patrick’s entire tax relief plan would spend over two years.

“If anybody’s got $9 billion laying around, let me know,” Nelson said.

And, as the San Antonio Express-News' Peggy Fikac noted, "A smaller tax-cut proposal already is being viewed with concern by those who say lawmakers should first address big needs in areas such as education and transportation.

"It also would be difficult for lawmakers to quickly craft another business tax, seriously entertain the idea of a corporate income tax or rally support for raising the sales tax to replace the revenue, as some suggested."

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

•    House Appropriations meets at 7:30 a.m. to discuss budget recommendations on Article VI and Article VII agencies (E1.030). The House Investments & Financial Services Committee meets at 2 p.m. or on final adjournment to hear testimony on venture capitalism and private equity (E2.028). The House Natural Resources Committee meets at 2 p.m. or on final adjournment to take testimony on two issues: the State Water Implementation Fund Texas (SWIFT) and the Texas Supreme Court's decision in EAA v. Day case decision. (E2.010)

•    Senate Finance meets at 9 a.m. to take public testimony on the suite of tax relief legislation under consideration this session (E1.036). 

•    The University of Texas System Board of Regents meets at 8:30 a.m. in a special called meeting, the agenda for which includes "discussion and appropriate action related to the UT Austin presidential search."

•    Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sens. Jane Nelson, Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and Kevin Eltife are expected to hold a 9:30 a.m. press conference at the Capitol to address debt reduction and tax relief.

•    The Center for Public Policy Priorities will release at 9 a.m. its State of Texas Children 2015 report, an annual scorecard for how kids are faring in health care, education, safety and other measures. The event at the Sheraton Austin Capitol hotel will include a panel called "Why Pre-K? Why now?" featuring state Rep. Joe Deshotel, a pre-K researcher and a representative from Samsung. The report's release will be livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: In Senate, Spotlight Squarely on Tax Cuts, by Ross Ramsey

Video: Solidifying State Support for Female Veterans, by Alana Rocha and Justin Dehn

Early Education Push Earning Lukewarm Reviews, by Morgan Smith

Regents Meeting on Next UT-Austin President, by Bobby Blanchard

State Urges Judge to Keep Immigration Plan on Hold, by Julián Aguilar

Texas Households on Food Stamps Almost Tripled Since 2000, by Alexa Ura

Congress Fully Funds Homeland Security, by Julián Aguilar

Conservative Group's Robocalls Target UT Report, by Ryan McCrimmon

GOP Group Targets Gohmert on Homeland Security Funding, by Abby Livingston

Patrick Unveils First Round of Education Proposals, by Morgan Smith

Elsewhere

Ex-death row inmates urge Texas to end executions, Austin American-Statesman

Lawmakers, watchdog groups call to reopen probe ended by Perry veto, Houston Chronicle

DPS retirement wave could complicate border recruitment effort, Austin American-Statesman

Senate education agenda irks teacher groups, Houston Chronicle

Lawmaker seeks to force debate on unlicensed constitutional carry, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

More bodies of immigrants found in recent months than a year ago, San Antonio Express-News

Texas Health responds to two claims in Ebola nurse Nina Pham’s suit, The Dallas Morning News

Body-camera maker has financial ties to police chiefs, The Associated Press

Koch network offers clue of who it will back in 2016 GOP primary, Washington Post

Quote to Note

"A blanket decriminalization of marijuana and classification as a vegetable is not going to happen."

— Gary Hale, former intelligence chief in the Drug Enforcement Agency's Houston division, throwing cold water on the prospects of passage of state Rep. David Simpson's bill that would decriminalize marijuana and make it regulated like other crops

Today in TribTalk

Kill the margins tax, by Vance Ginn

News From Home

•    On Sunday, we're launching a five-part series titled "Undrinkable." It looks at why more than 100,000 Texans along the Mexican border still can’t reliably turn on the tap and get safe, clean water, despite decades and billions of dollars' worth of effort.

•    The Texas Tribune is teaming up with more than 520 Central Texas nonprofit organizations for the 24-hour online giving festival Amplify Austin! Amplify Austin kicks off at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, and ends at 6 p.m. Friday, March 6

Support the Tribune at texastribune.org/amplify as we shift our fundraising into overdrive in hopes of claiming matching funds and booster prizes. Let's Amplify Texas!

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With State Sen. Kel Seliger and State Rep. John Zerwas on March 5 at the Austin Club

•    On the Road: A Symposium on Water on March 10 at Texas State University in San Marcos

•    Meet the Mayors: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price on March 12 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With UT-Austin Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston on March 26 at The Austin Club