The Texas 83rd Legislative Session was the topic of discussion during a meeting of the McKinney Chamber Tuesday morning at Eldorado Country Club. Senator-elect Ken Paxton (R-Dist.8) and Scott Sanford, the newly elected State Representative for Texas House District 70, spoke briefly to the audience about the challenges facing the state as the Texas Legislature begins their regular session in Austin on Tuesday, Jan. 8.
Paxton said that Governor Perry has a big impact on the legislative agenda and plans to bring forward initiatives such as the "Truth in Budgeting", which would force the state to spend money for the sole purpose for which the fees were collected and would stop the deferment of payments to the next budgeting cycle. Paxton also said that Govenor Perry has a no new taxes pledge, wants to keep the small business exception for franchise tax permenant and wants to preserve the Texas Rainy Day Fund, which currently tops $8 billion.
Paxton said, "The biggest challenge we have is that federal programs infringe on our state budget, like Medicaid. Unlike the federal government, we don't have the ability to print money. We are confined by a budget, and have to work within that budget."
Medicaid spending affects the state's ability to allocate funds to areas such as education, transportaion and water, Paxton told the audience.
"I notice in the last four years that the federal government is more involved in the state of Texas than they have ever been," Paxton said, I hate to tell you, but we are not the favored sons."
Paxton cited examples such as water issues, Texas' effort to institue an improved voter I.D. law and healthcare exchanges under Obama care, that point to the federal government's involvement in state politics.
"We need people at the state level who willing to take on the federal government, because I can tell you this, the federal government has a lot of interest in Texas, so we need strong leaders in Austin to deal with Washington."
Paxton, who has been a McKinney resident for 16 years and is the first person from McKinney to be elected to the State Senate, said he loves McKinney and looks forward to serving the city.
Sanford said he wants to contintue the open communication with other legislators that Ken Paxton practiced and told guests that he hopes to be appointed for one of the following committees: Appropriations, because of his background as a CPA, Pensions, Investments and Financial Services, which oversee banking, or the Small Business and Economic Development Committee.
Sanford said he will be seeking to vote for a group of House leaders who display integrity and show willingness to "do the right thing" and he will be working to modify the rules so that "the power closer to the people."
Sanford also said that economic development, education and water will be on his list of prioroties.
Shared List of 2013 Legislative Priorties
The City of McKinney and the Chamber of Commerce have adopted a set of shared prioroties that both groups feel are in the best interest of the community, particularly opposing any legislation that interfers with local control.
Mayor Brian Loughmiller said that the city and the private sector working together to establish the list of priorities "sends a strong message" to Texas legislators.
The shared priorities focus of economic development, education and the workforce, healthcare, transportation, taxes and spending and water issues.
Type A/Type B Sales Tax Revenue: Support continued use of a locally approved 1/2 cent sales tax collected by cities to fund economic development efforts and oppose efforts to reduce local control of these funds or efforts to limit the uses of these funds. Because these funds are local funds, taxpayers should retain the right to manage their use for community and economic development.
Support continued funding for the Texas Enterprise Fund and Texas Emerging Technology Fund programs to include unexpended balances and restoring funding to be consistent with FY 10-11 biennial budget levels.
Tax abatements and other economic development incentives. Continue to support local control and flexibility in the use of tax abatements, tax increment financing, reinvestment zones and other incentives to promote economic development and job creation.
EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE
Funding. Restore the $5.4 billion in funding cuts to public schools and replace the current funding system with adequate and equitable formula that allows for growth based funding.
Local Control. Ensure districts have flexibility to meet the needs of their students and discretionary funds to meet local community needs.
Accountability. Re-examine the public school accountability system in Texas and rely less on standardized testing.
Community colleges. Support education at the community college level as an important contributor to training students for jobs in the workforce.
Healthcare will continue to be a very important issue that affects every employer and will continue to be a central concern over the next 12 to 18 months as we learn more about the impact of the Affordable Healthcare Act. We will continue to be engaged in monitoring this issue and its impacts on our business members.
Principles and Priorities
Principles. – All transportation policy decisions should be focused on increasing efficiency and ease of movement of people and goods across Texas. We must understand our system needs in the short-term while envisioning a system that is sustainable for the next several decades. While financing options, project sizes, and decision processes are limiting factors to implementation, we cannot originate infrastructure goals based solely or primarily on funding. Financing methodology is an important but secondary question. Instead, we must first envision the system the state deserves and then figure out how to pay for it. Prioritization for transportation projects should include potential economic impact in addition to current levels of service of existing roadways.
Increase in transportation funding to at least meet the “Worst Acceptable Condition Scenario” identified in the state’s 2030 Committee Report. (addition of $174 per Texas household or $80 per registered vehicle)
Constitutional amendment mandating transportation related funds not be diverted for non-transportation purposes.
McKinney Road Priorities – Our current road infrastructure priorities include the following:
- FM546 Replacement to improve access to the area surrounding Collin County Regional Airport
- Virginia Parkway (FM 3038)Mallard Lakes to US 75 - traffic on Virginia Parkway currents exceeds the capacity for a four lane roadway. This project will increase capacity of the roadway by 50% by installing a new lane in each direction to the outside of the existing lanes.
-Virginia Parkway – Ridge to Mallard Lakes - This project will increase capacity of the roadway by 50% by installing a new lane in each direction to the outside of the existing lanes.
-Stacy Road – Ridge to SH 121 – Traffic on Stacy Road has increased steadily since it was completed several years ago and is currently nearing capacity for a four lane roadway. This project will increase capacity of the roadway by 50% by installing one new lane in each direction in the median of the existing roadway.
- SH 5 Construction – FM546 to US 380 – This roadway is the main commercial corridor for McKinney east of US 75. A separate planning project is currently underway through a partnership between the City, NCTCOG and TxDOT. This project will implement the findings of the study and is anticipated to include paving, median, sidewalk, landscape, lighting and other enhancements.
TAXES & SPENDING
Fiscal policy. Continue to support fiscal restraint in state spending and transparency in budgeting so that taxpayers
know exactly what dollars are collected and where they are spent.
Franchise (margin) tax –Review and restructure the franchise (margin) tax.
- Business losses. Support authorizing a business’s losses on the franchise (margin) tax to be carried forward for up to 10 years.
- Exemption of flow-through funds. Support an exemption from the franchise (margin) tax of all flow-through funds that are mandated by contract to be distributed to other entities.
- Research and development tax credit. Support reinstating the research and development tax credit (provided under the previous franchise tax) and allowing it to be carried forward.
Perhaps no other issue is as critical for all businesses in Texas as our water supply. The latest update to the Texas State Water Plan confirms that in drought conditions, Texas businesses do not have the water that is needed to sustain economic opportunity. The report projects that by 2060 water supplies will decrease by 10% while our population will grow by 82%, from 25.4 million to over 46 million and the need for additional water in Texas during drought conditions will reach 8.3 million acre-feet.
Conservation of existing water resources, development of additional cost-effective supplies and sound scientifically- based and economically rational standards for protecting water quality will be key to our ability to continue to attract business opportunity to Texas.
State Water Plan. Adequate funding for the implementation of the State Water Plan.
Water Conservation. Support efforts to ensure that water users are required to develop and enforce stringent water conservation measures as a condition of receiving any state financial or technical assistance for water resource planning and development.
*Correction: Newly elected Ken Paxton is actually not the first McKinney resident to be elected to the Texas Senate, as referenced in this story. Wallace Hughston holds that distinction, having served the 10th Senatorial District during the 44th Legislative Session in 1935.