Texas Senate Panel on “Fiscal Matters” Starts Looking for $5 Billion

The Senate Finance Committee has spawned a new subcommittee charged with finding $5 billion in new revenue. The catch is that this money, which the Senate could use to help fill a $27 billion revenue hole, must come from “non-tax” sources, according to the Senate’s presiding officer, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Today Senate Finance chair Steve Ogden, Republican of Bryan, named Sen. Robert Duncan, a fellow Republican from Lubbock, to chair this subcommittee on “fiscal matters.” Also appointed to this important panel were:  Republican Sens. Robert Deuell of Greenville, Kevin Eltife of Tyler, Dan Patrick of Houston, and Tommy Williams of The Woodlands, along with Democrats Judith Zaffirini of Laredo and Royce West of Dallas.

Topics the subcommittee will address include:  extracting more income from state assets; reallocating unused revenue from funds now dedicated to particular purposes; raising state fees; adjusting statutes to alter state obligations; and improving tax collections and reviewing tax exemptions. The last category is especially noteworthy. According to a spokesman for the governor’s office at a recent House hearing, closing a tax loophole counts in Gov. Perry’s estimation as a taboo tax increase. Apparently Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s definition is different, and closing tax loopholes is a “non-tax” option to be considered. Texas AFT doesn’t care about the labels, as long as every revenue option, including closure of loopholes in the Tax Code, is on the table.