Seliger Completes Another Successful Session for Senate District 31
AUSTIN, Texas — Monday, State Senator Kel Seliger completed his third session serving in the Texas Senate, as the 81st Legislature adjourned Sine Die, literally "without a day" available to reconvene in another session. Since the Legislature convened in January, Senator Seliger worked to enact many significant measures to benefit the citizens of the Panhandle, South Plains and the Permian Basin. "It has been a very productive session even in the face of some friction between the two chambers, and that is due to the spirit of cooperation among the delegations of the Panhandle, South Plains and Permian Basin," Seliger said.
As the newest member of the Senate Finance Committee, Seliger worked with his colleagues to craft a state budget for the upcoming biennium that addresses key needs, a unique challenge given the slumping economy and dire future revenue estimates. The final budget includes a much needed 7 percent salary increase for correctional officers at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, $1.9 billion in new money to public schools, and an $800 increase in salary for every teacher in the state. "Public education continues to be one of the most important priorities of the Legislature, and we have made some very important progress in funding equity and reforms in that area," stated Seliger.
Additionally, he supported a measure to increase the franchise tax exemption for small businesses from $300,000 to $1 million, and to substantially increase funding for the state's physician loan repayment program to attract qualified healthcare providers to medically underserved areas, including many rural communities throughout West Texas.
House Bill 469 creates significant state-level incentives for the development of new "clean coal" technology in the State of Texas. This legislation will create new jobs and generate additional tax revenue related to the construction and operation of these facilities, and will allow Texas to lead the nation by utilizing our nation's abundant coal resources to generate needed electricity in the most environmentally responsible manner possible. "House Bill 469 is going to be the blueprint for coal-fired electric generation plants in the future for the world," said Seliger.
In another effort to address challenges facing our state, Senate Bill 1387 was passed to establish the necessary regulatory framework for the capture and safe storage of carbon dioxide. In anticipation of future mandates pertaining to carbon dioxide and taking into consideration a heightened national sensitivity to climate change, Seliger feels this bill will position our state to benefit instead of suffering from possible federal regulations.
Senator Seliger also sponsored House Bill 3676, which extends the Texas Economic Development Act, the state's most critical economic development tool, to 2014 and allows school districts to provide a temporary limitation on the value of new investment subject to property tax. Since the Act's inception in 2001, 90 projects involving $40 billion of new investment and an estimated 5,600 high-paying jobs have come to Texas, in large part because of the incentives available through the Economic Development Act. "Texas has been the best place in the United States to create new jobs. This bill simply gives us one of the many tools we'll need to succeed in a competitive endeavor," stated Seliger.
In response the alarming increase in the total head of cattle reported missing or stolen in Texas, Senator Seliger filed Senate Bill 1163 which elevates the punishment for theft of cattle, horses, exotic livestock or fowl from a state jail felony to a third degree felony.
Due to the amount of funding that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) handles and the number of people it employs, the need for the executive director to be an engineer should be secondary to the need for organizational management skills. It is for this reason that Senator Seliger ensured the passage of Senate Bill 970, which removes the requirement that the executive director of TxDOT be a registered professional engineer and adds the requirement that he or she have organizational management experience and skills. "With an annual budget of $8 billion, the Transportation Commission needs to pick the best person, not just the best engineer," noted Seliger.
Seliger is eager to return to the district to report to the citizens of District 31 on all of the activities and accomplishments of the 81st Legislature and continue to visit with them about issues of concern. "This entire session, there has been dialogue with the schools, colleges, businesses and individuals of District 31. My job is to work for them, and I look forward to continuing that work in the coming interim," concluded Seliger.