News Release from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2008
Contact: Celeste Villarreal
512/463-0121

Economic Development, Taxes Revenue, Healthcare Coverage Focus of Senate Finance Committee

(AUSTIN) -- The Senate Finance Committee today (Tuesday) heard testimony about revenue estimates, the state economy and employee healthcare incentive plans. Specifically, witnesses testified about the state of the Texas economy and tax revenue collections, and healthcare experts proposed recommendations to improve employee insurance programs.

Representatives of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and leaders in the healthcare industry testified at the State Capitol and addressed the interim charges issued by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. He directed the committee to evaluate the effectiveness of existing state tax incentives that encourage employers to provide health coverage to their employees, including tax incentives under the revised state business tax, and make recommendations for additional deductions or credits that increase the number of employees covered by health care insurance.

John Heleman, chief comptroller of public accounts, discussed the new margins tax and the estimated $1.4 billion shortfall, which may be offset by strong sales tax revenue that is projected to reach $400 million above the estimate at the end of the biennium, $6.8 billion in the rainy day fund, $2 billion in estimated surplus in general revenue and $3 billion in the property tax relief fund.

"Revenue estimates look good for the next biennium, however, it is too early to discuss the size of a surplus," said Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. She is vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, serves on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and also chairs the Senate Finance Higher Education Subcommittee and the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee.

"There are many competing interests for state funding, and we must prioritize health and human services, public education, higher education and an estimated $14 billion needed to pay down property taxes."

The committee will make recommendations to the 81st Texas Legislature that convenes on Jan. 13.

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SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI is vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, serves on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and presides over two higher education subcommittees. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appointed her Chair of the Senate Finance Higher Education Subcommittee and the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee.


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