Thursday, February 10, 2005

The state will harshly penalize companies that outsource; won't allow state investments in those companies

(read today's Austin American-Statesman on this bill)

Well, if HB 817 passes. It's been filed by Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas) in an attempt to curb state involvement in companies that outsource jobs to overseas countries. The specific language:

A state governmental entity may not invest state funds in or purchase obligations of a domestic private entity (any private U.S. company) that, at any time during the previous two years, created employment suitable for performance in the United States in a country other than the United States and, as a result, eliminated or failed to create similar employment in the United States.

This would also repeal provisions for tax abatements and other benefits that apply to private companies if they outsource jobs. We're talking big buckeroos here.

This bill is interesting because so many companies get money from the state through the corporate slush fund, the Texas Enterprise Fund. But what's also interesting is the effects this bill would have on other lesser-known-but-still-important state funds, like the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, the Texas Growth Fund, and those managed by the University of Texas Investment Management Company - all of which have stirred some controversy in the past year. Combined, these funds are worth billions and billions of dollars and invest several million dollars in hundreds of companies.

So, in a nutshell, I doubt this bill is going anywhere as unfortunate as that is. If it wasn't as far-reaching, it might stand some sort of chance since outsourcing jobs shouldn't be ignored by lawmakers. But wait, no, we're in Texas. Nevermind.

Privatizing janitor's jobs at public universities

HB 591

Fred Brown (R-Bryan)

This bill would require all "waste removal services" at universities to be subcontracted to either a local government or private business, privatizing all janitorial jobs at institutions of higher education. I honestly doubt this bill will go anywhere, but then again Brown's been filing higher ed. bills like the madman he is - mainly since he's an important, high-ranking member on the House Higher Ed. Committee.

Let's all just cross our fingers that this bill suffers a timely death.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

HB 821 -- The Texas Competitive Gas Market Act

Apparently Texas hasn't learned much in the energy deregulation game. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) has filed HB 821 to deregulate the transportation of natural gas. Although this bill won't necessarily have a direct correlation with higher natural gas prices in the near future (if it passes), that possibility isn't entirely ruled out.

The Railroad Commission currently manages and oversees the transportation of natural gas. This bill would allow for any gas utility - not the Railroad Commission - to do so, and a gas utility would be required to "transport natural gas on behalf of any person requesting transportation," without preference or discrimination. Basically this bill allows for any gas utility to transport the goods, and the Railroad Commission determines how much money they will receive.

The prices of transportation are still subject to regulation, but I'll continue to watch my pocketbook.

Monday, February 07, 2005

CPPP's report on the Texas Enterprise Fund

The Center for Public Policy Priorities issued a report last week on the Texas Enterprise Fund, which was a $300 million created last session to pay corporations to conduct business in Texas in exchange for the promise of jobs.

Perry uses the money in the TEF at his discretion with little oversight. This could be a problem since this is the largest fund of its kind (a "cash-based economic development incentive program" as the report calls it).

This report also briefly refers to the Emerging Technologies Fund, another $300 million fund that Perry wants to create this session for the private sector to work more closely with university researchers.

There are two bills that have been filed by the Senate so far - SB 105 and 277 - that are working to provide some oversight on the TEF and ensure that more money goes to the border, not just metropolitan areas.


Pay raises for State Troopers

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick have agreed to give state troopers more salary money: an across-the-board pay raise for 3,500 DPS officers. Their minimum yearly pay is $36,000.

UPDATE: Alright, so I checked the facts on teacher vs. state trooper pay. Starting pay is around the same, around $30,000-$35,000. But it's still bad that teachers aren't treated the same way as state troopers as far as an across-the-board pay increase goes.

For more on where I'm coming from, see my synopsis on HB 2

Potential revenue sources

Gambling debate heating up again
By: DAVE MICHAELS / The Dallas Morning News

As budgetary needs pile up, the debate over video lottery terminals, a type of slot machine, has started in earnest. Lobbyists are pressing lawmakers to approve machines that would pour as much as $1.25 billion annually into state coffers and heavily subsidize purses at horse tracks. Other bills expected to be offered soon would allow for the creation of casinos in the state.

Business tax: What's fair is arguable
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - The idea, as outlined by state leaders, may sound simple enough: Create a fair, broad-based business tax, preferably with a low rate, to help cut local property taxes and provide a new revenue source for public schools.


"I think you will find strong opposition to that in the House," [State Rep. Sylvester] Turner said.


Despite the obstacles, Allaway believes the Legislature will make significant tax changes this year in the face of growing public pressure and a court order to replace a school finance system that is largely funded by local property taxes.

To accomplish that goal, he said, the Legislature may have to offer businesses a "mixture of tax bases and some types of options." According to one suggestion, companies could be given the option of being taxed on their payroll or on their revenue, whichever was less.


Under the broad outlines of a new tax plan endorsed by Dewhurst and all 31 senators, the franchise tax would be replaced with a broader-based business tax, which would raise about twice as much money, or about $3.5 billion a year.


The new business tax would apply to partnerships, as well as corporations, while excluding sole proprietorships.