June 4, 2015
When my wife and I work on our family budget, we talk about how to make the best use of the money we have. We set aside funds for necessities and plan for our long-term goals, and never stop looking for ways to spend and save smarter.
The Texas Legislature goes through a similar process every other year. During the 2015 session, Texas legislators crafted a responsible budget for the next two years, passed laws to make tax collection more efficient and reduced the tax burden for many Texans.
I am pleased to say it was a successful session for both the Texas Comptroller's office and the people we serve, and I look forward to implementing the positive outcomes we experienced.
I'd also like to highlight a few of the new laws that will have a beneficial impact on the state and our economy:
- The state budget (House Bill 1): At $209.4 billion, the budget for 2016 and 2017 measures up as fiscally sound. It's well beneath our constitutional spending cap and pay-as-you-go limit and will keep the state funded for the next two years.
- Property tax relief (Senate Bill 1): If approved by voters in the Nov. 3 election, SB 1 will increase the homestead exemption for school district property taxes from $15,000 to $25,000. Texas homeowners shoulder too much of the overall tax burden, and they deserve this much-needed break.
- Franchise tax relief (HB 32): This bill reduces the franchise tax rate on Texas businesses by 25 percent and provides additional tax relief to businesses that meet certain revenue thresholds. It's a smart investment that will help ensure Texas keeps producing jobs and opportunities for our citizens.
- Modernization of Comptroller's office functions (SB 853 and SB 1364): This legislation will improve our agency's customer service by reducing filing burdens on taxpayers, saving time and money for both taxpayers and the state. For example, taxpayers will be able to submit sales tax applications electronically to our office, and they will be accepted as signed by the taxpayer. Additionally, businesses will now file electronically if they have no franchise taxes due.
- Increased funding for Comptroller's Audit and Tax Policy divisions (HB 1): I believe audits should be swift and efficient, without undue burdens on Texas businesses. To achieve that goal, our agency must have technically proficient Tax Policy staff to interpret and implement the tax laws, ensuring auditors can equitably enforce those laws and businesses pay only the taxes they owe and nothing more. Additionally, auditors should do their work skillfully and then move on — without tangling up business operations unnecessarily. To do that, our agency must also be able to hire and keep an experienced staff in our Audit division. This bill will help us accomplish these goals and improve our customer service along the way.
- Transfer of certain event trust funds to Governor's Office (SB 633): I'd like to see the Comptroller's office focus more on its core functions, so I can do the job Texans hired me to do as effectively as possible. SB 633 helps us achieve that goal by shifting the administration of the Major Events Trust Fund, as well as other event trust funds, from the Comptroller's office to the Governor's Office, where it will dovetail with existing initiatives in the Governor's Economic Development and Tourism Division.
- Repeal of eight outdated state taxes (multiple bills): Immediately upon taking office as Texas Comptroller, I conducted a top-down review of the agency to look for inefficiencies and ways to streamline our processes. We found a number of outdated taxes that provided more of an unnecessary administrative burden than a net good for the state. This session, we successfully repealed eight of those taxes, creating an administrative cost savings for the agency, reducing administrative burdens on those we serve and providing tax relief for many.
- Transportation (Senate Joint Resolution 5): As Texas continues to grow, we must invest in our infrastructure to keep our economy strong. This legislation allows Texas voters to consider a constitutional amendment dedicating a portion of the state sales and use tax and motor vehicle sales tax to road funding. If approved, this would represent the single largest increase in transportation funding in the state's history.
- General Revenue dedicated account reform (HB 7): This reform will help enhance budgeting transparency and takes a step toward eliminating budget techniques that allow certain state fees to be used for unintended purposes. When we dedicate revenue for specific purposes, those funds should be put to use as intended — not stashed away in reserves.
As the chief financial officer of this great state, I will continue to monitor the Texas economy and do my part to make sure Texas continues to thrive. I hope you found this legislative roundup helpful, and I encourage you to share it via Facebook or Twitter. As always, if you have any suggestions on how our office can better serve you, please let me know via our customer service website.
Thank you for all you do for Texas, and God bless,