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April 20, 1999     (512) 463-0300
Senators Sibley and Ogden
Waco Senator David Sibley (left) in debate with Bryan Senator Steve Ogden (right) over an amendment to CSSB 5 which includes Texas agriculture in the strategic investment areas. Although Sibley, the bill sponsor, opposed the amendment, the Senate added the language to the legislation.

Battling Senators

AUSTIN - Additional tax credits for Texas businesses have passed out of the Senate. Supporters say the more than $132 million tax break will encourage economic growth across the state. The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 5 designates strategic investment areas which have high unemployment and low per capita income. The areas are generally located along the Rio Grande and in deep East Texas. Corporations will have to invest in research and development statewide, or create jobs in the economically distressed areas, to get the break. Bill sponsor Senator David Sibley of Waco says all Texans should benefit from the state's economic boom.

Attempts to extend the tax breaks to other areas were hotly debated, with some senators arguing the state doesn't have the money to spread around. One amendment would help Texas agriculture by expanding job creation and investment credits to that industry anywhere in the state.

Bryan Senator Steve Ogden sponsored the amendment saying there are other places that need help as well. "Agriculture is one industry in this state that is not enjoying the prosperity of this state. We have a record budget surplus. We do have some money left over in the budget that is coming to the Senate floor today. And I urge you to give serious consideration to this amendment because I can't think of another group of people that deserve an investment tax credit more than the agriculture economy in the State of Texas," said Ogden.

Dallas Senator Royce West sponsored another amendment to allow tax credits for businesses which invest in urban areas. But Sibley and Finance Committee Chair Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant spoke against both amendments, despite benefits to their own districts, saying the state does not have the money. In floor debate, Ratliff said, "I'm in the unenviable position of having to oppose amendments I would love to support but that's the nature of the job we do in finance. We are required to oppose things if we're going to have a balanced budget." Both amendments passed despite the price tag.

Legislation restricting on telephone services also passed out of the Senate. This includes CSSB 1251, sponsored by West, which prohibits a phone service provider from cutting off basic local service due to an unpaid long distance bill. El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh sponsored Senate Bill (SB) 1020, which requires pre-paid calling cards offered in Texas to provide more and clearer information about rates and terms of service under legislation passed today.

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow, April 21, at 10:00 a.m. April 21 is San Jacinto Day, the Texas holiday celebrating the Battle of San Jacinto, the final battle in the War for Texas Independence in 1836.

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