As a part of the North Texas Commission’s Legislative Summit, State Senator Kelly Hancock and State Representative Ramon Romero participated in an informative panel discussion. Dale Craymer of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association moderated the engaging discussion, and closing the gap on the projected $4.6 billion revenue shortfall for this biennium was the primary topic.
Senator Hancock kicked off the conversation by putting the projected shortfall in perspective as only 2.5% of the budget. Unfortunately, many small businesses are facing more significant budgetary issues. While discussing the challenges the COVID-19 has brought, Senator Hancock said that in a way, the pandemic has been good for the Texas Legislature. He remarks that legislators have been at home with their constituents and not away in Austin. Being closer to constituents has forced people to listen to their neighbors.
During the panel, Hancock also talked about the significant number of business regulations suspended during the pandemic. Many people believe these restrictions are working and that the Legislature should make as many as possible permanent.
When the discussion turned to the expansion of Medicaid as a way to increase economic activity and boost state revenue, Senator Hancock said the best health insurance is getting a job. Senator Hancock stresses the importance of improving the economy which would decrease the number of uninsured people.
Representative Romero focused the discussion on the border pointing out that we are still spending over $800 million on border security. The panel’s consensus was that border security is an area to consider when looking at a way to make up the budget shortfall. Representative Romero also suggested that we could decrease our expenditures for prisons by reducing the number of marijuana offenders.
Romero said increasing the sales tax is a non-starter, even if it is done to reduce property taxes and is revenue neutral. While sales tax is regressive atax, Senator Hancock noted that exemptions for food and medicine reduce the regressive nature of the tax and that people from outside the state pay part of the sales tax.
Senator Hancock stressed that raising taxes in Texas will always be a problem, especially now with almost $9 billion in our savings account (referring to the “rainy-day fund”). He added that whatever the legislature decides to do to make up the budget shortfall must not put a damper on growth and business.
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