Senator Tommy Williams
P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0104

May 20, 2005
Contact: Lauren Hutton (512) 463-0104

Capitol Notes
By: State Sen. Tommy Williams

AUSTIN -- With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, lawmakers face crunch time on legislation critical to the state's public school system. I am hopeful the Senate and House conferees who are working to develop the new school finance reform plan will create legislation beneficial to Texas school children, taxpayers, workers and businesses.

However, dangers to Texas businesses remain in the proposals, which threaten to harm the state's economy and create a greater tax burden on the hard working citizens of Texas. The Senate version of the tax bill (House Bill 3) contains a gross receipts tax -- a punitive tax which could force jobs and companies to move out of state. Hopefully the conferees will remember, "a working parent of a well educated child is better for our state's economy."

I believe it is important for the legislature to keep in mind the end of the session (May 30th) is not the end of the race. Our objective is passing the right school finance reform for Texas regardless of time constraints. The new system must deliver meaningful property tax relief, protect local control, properly fund classroom and teacher needs and create a tax system beneficial to the state's economy and local jobs.

I attempted to safeguard taxpayers this session by proposing to reduce the annual appraisal cap through legislation and a budget amendment. Neither measure made its way to the floor for debate. However, two bills I put forth to protect property taxpayers passed in the Senate and are awaiting approval in the House of Representatives.

One of my bills --The Property Tax Accountability Act (Senate Bill 18) --requires Texas cities and counties to give clear notice and to hold two public hearings if they propose any increases in taxes. My other taxpayer protection bill, Senate Bill 1351, offers homeowners and small business owners who want to contest an increased appraisal a more affordable alternative to filing a lawsuit. This measure would allow property owners to choose arbitration for a nominal fee instead.

Both the House and Senate versions of the school finance tax plans have critics, including myself, who question whether those who really need tax relief, such as young families and those living on a fixed income, will catch a break. Under the current proposal (which I oppose), Texas consumers can look forward to a higher sales tax, higher alcohol tax and the possibility of a snack tax. While some lawmakers claim the consumption taxes offset a decrease in property taxes, I am concerned no savings are guaranteed to property taxpayers.

With less than two weeks left in the legislative session and ample room for things to go awry, all state legislators and citizens of Texas should keep in mind Texas works best with educated workers (many of whom are the parents and grandparents of school children) in good paying Texas jobs.

First elected in 1996 to the Texas House of Representatives, Tommy Williams was later elected to the Senate in 2002 and re-elected in 2004. He represents Senate District 4, covering all or portions of Montgomery, Harris, Liberty, Chambers, Jefferson and Orange counties. Williams serves as Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Committee and as a member of the Senate Criminal Justice, Education and Finance committees.