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December 5, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Senate Committees Examine Pocketbook Issues

Two different Texas Senate Committees were taking a look at fees all Texans have to pay, utilities and taxes, today, Wednesday, December 5, 2001. Both the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Oversight of Utility Restructuring were meeting in Austin.

The Finance Committee is examining Texas taxes and how the state raises revenue. Many predictions show the state facing a multi-billion dollar deficit over the next few years and this committee is examining how to maximize tax revenue while trying to keep any tax increases to the absolute minimum.

Hopefully, before the Legislature has to face that issue in January of 2003, the Texas economy will have time to recover from the current slump, which has depressed tax revenues. In welcoming the committee, Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff said: "I'm not one to be worried about the sky falling just yet. But on the other hand, it's prudent to be prepared in case our economy hasn't recovered."

Ratliff wants the committee to identify what remaining loopholes can be closed, and whether or not business is paying its fare share. He said that while he doesn't criticize businesses for taking advantage of loopholes, the Lt. Governor says the business tax structure may need to be changed. As far as state expenses are concerned, he wants the Legislature to take a long hard look at medical costs. Today the committee looked at a number of different taxes the state levies, and will meet once again before the end of the year.

The Electric Utility Restructuring Committee continued its examination of how Texas power companies are moving toward a deregulated market. In past meetings, questions have been raised not only regarding how much Texans will pay for electricity under a deregulated system, but how reliable supplies will be. Attending today's hearing were representatives of the Public Utilities Commission who briefed the committee on what issues the utilities still need to overcome to ensure that Texans don't have the same problems that consumers in other states have faced during deregulation. This committee recessed subject to call of the chair. Future hearings will continue well into the new year.

You can access the archived video webcast from the web page of the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Oversight of Utility Restructuring respectively.

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