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The Brief: March 5, 2015

Business interests told Senate budget writers on Wednesday that a tax relief plan focused on making changes to the business margins tax prioritized the wrong issue.

Houston Ship Channel - March 16, 2012,  Baytown, TX

The Big Conversation

Business interests on Wednesday told Senate budget writers that a tax relief plan focused on making changes to the business margins tax prioritized the wrong issue.

“The biggest sore thumb that faces Texas is the property tax, not the business tax,” said Dale Craymer, president of the business-backed Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, as reported by the Tribune's Aman Batheja. His assertion was repeated multiple times by representatives from manufacturers, the oil industry and other business sectors.

The comment came a day after members of the Senate Finance Committee criticized the margins tax, with the panel's chairwoman expressing regret for having voting in favor of its creation in 2006.

The other component of the Senate's tax relief package — raising the homestead exemption for homeowner property taxes while reworking the formula to index the exemption to home values — came in for criticism as well from some in the business community.

Batheja wrote that "Bill Hammond with the Texas Association of Business said he was worried about how that change would impact the state’s tax system years into the future as home values rise.

“That number for the exemption would grow over time and further shift the burden to the business community, which, as I stated earlier, is continuing to pay more than its fair share of the tax bill,” Hammond said.

The reworked homestead exemption, though, had its champions.

“If you do feel you have to cut taxes, we feel the homestead exemption is the way to go,” said Dick Lavine, senior fiscal analyst with the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities, adding that he liked how the exemption would be tied to median home market value.

Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2013. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.

•    House Appropriations meets at 7:30 a.m. to take up pending items for Article IV and V agencies as well as to tackle budget recommendations for Article II agencies (E1.030). Budget subcommittees on Article III (E1.030) and Articles VI, VII & VIII (JHR 100) meet later.

•    The House Economic & Small Business Development Committee meets on final adjournment to take up legislation dealing with the Major Events Trust Fund (E2.010). The House Transportation Committee meets at 8 a.m. with legislation on the agenda that would ban the use of cell phones while driving (E2.012). The House General Investigating & Ethics Committee meets at 10:30 a.m. or on final adjournment to take testimony on state contracts (E2.026).

•    The Senate Select Committee on Government Facilities meets at 9:30 a.m. to take testimony on deferred maintenance needs at state agencies (E1.012). Senate Nominations meets at 10 a.m. to consider nominees to the Texas Transportation Commission (2E.20).

Trib Must-Reads

Rising Local Debt Draws Attention of Legislature, by Aman Batheja

Analysis: Fear of Spending Even Extends to Tax Cuts, by Ross Ramsey

House Leaders Seek to Phase Out B-On-Time Loan Program, by Bobby Blanchard

Et tu, Rick? Perry Has Own Private Email Trail, by Patrick Svitek

Committee Passes Second Chance Bill For Seniors, by Terri Langford

UT Regents Still Eyeing President Candidates, by Bobby Blanchard

House: Dripping Springs "Wedding Capital of Texas", by Ryan McCrimmon

Senate Approves Funneling Car Sales Tax to Highways, by Terri Langford

Patrick: Exempt Tax Cuts, Debt Payments From Spending Cap, by Aman Batheja


Texas Cities Are Worried Republicans Pushed Tax Cuts Too Far, Bloomberg

GOP bill would strip Public Integrity Unit power, Austin American-Statesman

Staff, media barred from 'public' Senate committee hearing, Houston Chronicle

Jose Menendez becomes San Antonio’s newest senator, San Antonio Express-News

Texas Republicans ready to elect new chairman, The Dallas Morning News

Rick Perry on the move in full presidential swing, The Dallas Morning News

Looking at 2016? Cruz hires prominent Iowa social conservative, San Antonio Express-News

Book by Sen. Ted Cruz to be published June 30, The Associated Press

Senate fails to override Obama's veto of Keystone XL legislation, Houston Chronicle

Supreme Court justices split in key challenge to Obamacare subsidies, Washington Post

Quote to Note

“Gosh darn, we know our businesses and taxpayers need tax relief. But because of the cap, we are limited in what we can do.”

— Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, while laying out "a new bold proposal" Wednesday morning to allow lawmakers to cut property taxes and pay down the state's debt without busting the state’s spending cap

Today in TribTalk

How much will the GOP gamble on guns?, by Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

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.

•    Starting at 6 p.m. today, and for just 24 hours, you can amplify the Tribune's impact on Texas during the 24-hour giving Festival, Amplify Austin. We're shifting our fundraising into overdrive in the hope of claiming a portion of the generous matching funds and booster prizes that will be awarded. Are you in?

Visit today and let's Amplify Texas!

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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

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