Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2002
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
512-463-0127

OP ED: Sen. Lucio salutes contributions of State Comptrollers

Texas has been fortunate to have stability in what many say is the most important office in state government. The State Comptroller's office has had only four comptrollers in the last 52 years.

We have truly been blessed with such stability in an agency that collects taxes and reports to the Legislature about how much is available to spend on the budget. Comptrollers Robert Calvert, Bob Bullock and John Sharp have each served us well, and for at least eight years each. Our present Comptroller, Ms. Carole Keeton Rylander, is trying to keep that record alive.

The direction and leadership from a comptroller impacts each and every one of us. And if I were to choose one of our state's most dedicated and influential leaders, who is also responsible for spearheading strong initiatives and unprecedented programs--especially for South Texas--it would have to be Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander.

Most recently, she has implemented a program to bring water purification systems to colonias that promise to improve the quality of life for the residents. It was in January of this year that Ms. Rylander announced her renewable energy program by the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), designed to decrease health concerns by providing clean water to an estimated 350,000 Texans who live in 1,450 colonias along the border.

The proposed water treatment system will be installed in a contained, weather resistant unit easily accessible by the colonia residents of Laredo. When this program reaches other parts of the Border like the Rio Grande Valley, it will mean safer living conditions for our families, especially for the children who are so often victims of diseases borne by drinking or bathing with unsanitary water.

Other energy projects under Ms. Rylander's purview have provided funds to benefit schools in the border region like La Joya Independent School District, Harlingen Independent School District and Willacy County. For instance, funds were used to install, depending on the school, systems like high efficiency lighting, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, chiller plant modifications and programmable thermostats.

And this is just one of many initiatives that can be credited to Comptroller Rylander's leadership and dedication to the people she serves and the state she so loves. When the Queen Isabella Bridge collapsed last year on September 15, South Padre Island was crippled because of the inability of the residents, tourists, workers and business owners to travel to and from the island.

Two days after the collapse, Comptroller Rylander gave businesses on the island an additional 90 days to file state taxes. Approximately 884 businesses were impacted by the closure of the bridge. However, her prompt action helped save many of these businesses from ruin and it led to a speedy recovery for all of them. Thanks to her intervention, the town's budget, although impacted, was not as heavily diminished as it may otherwise have been.

Along with state Sen. Rodney Ellis, Carole Rylander has spearheaded a program with tremendous impact on the Valley. The Annual Sales Tax Holiday is the statewide program that last year saved Texans $30.5 million in state sales taxes and $8.1 million in local sales taxes. The tax holiday, which runs for three days in August when customers are shopping for back-to-school items, allows stores to exempt many clothes and shoes from the sales tax. For South Texas families, this type of savings can mean the difference between buying school clothes or not.

When I filed legislation during the 76th legislative session to allow the state to issue GARVEEs (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles), bonds to build a state highway system that would be paid by future federal highway funds, Ms. Rylander endorsed and supported this measure. My legislation would have meant $4 billion, with $1 billion of this money for border projects. Comptroller Rylander fully understood that GARVEEs also meant dollars for border roads.

In 2001 Ms. Rylander issued a report with recommendations to improve the Border crossing process, to identify port-specific bottlenecks, to increase the use of automated technology during the border crossing process and to identify current and future infrastructure needs at the ports.

Later that year, the Comptroller's office published "Border on the Brink," a study of socio-economic and demographic statistics comparing the Border region with the state.

Her bipartisanship has repeatedly resulted in gains for all the people of this state, whether they live in North, East, West or South Texas.

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