On Wednesday, June 24, the Austin Chamber, in partnership with our sister chambers, hosted a forum with the candidates for Texas Senate District 14 previously held by Senator Kirk Watson. This forum, moderated by Tamara Fields, Austin Office Managing Director at Accenture, was an opportunity for candidates to let us know where they stand on issues important to the Central Texas business community.
The special election as well as the Democratic and Republican primary runoffs is Tuesday, July 14th.
Early voting begins Monday, June 29th.
Austin Office Managing Director
Waller Thomas Burns II
The Austin Chamber has worked over the years to create good paying jobs in Central Texas. Two main economic development tools we have supported include the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Economic Development Act, Chapter 313 of the Tax Code. These and other policies have been used selectively and judiciously to ensure these jobs and investments come to Texas rather than other states. Do you support continuing the State’s use of economic development policies such as the Texas Enterprise Fund and Chapter 313?
Because of COVID-19 related impacts, the state’s traditional sources of transportation revenues might be significantly lower than what was estimated in January of 2020. Do you support the use of comprehensive development agreements and public private partnerships to develop managed or toll lanes to help ease congestion on roads across the state and allow the private sector to offset public construction costs?
In the 86th session, the Legislature passed, and Governor Abbott signed into law, a massive overhaul of Texas’ school finance system via House Bill 3. This legislation created incentives for school districts to ensure a greater share of their students graduated college, career, or military ready. However, Austin ISD alone will send over $600M in local property taxpayer dollars back to the state in recapture. How will you work to reduce the impact of recapture on local taxpayers and ensure schools are well resourced?
In his latest update, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced state sales tax revenue totaled $2.61 billion in May. That was 13.2% less than in May 2019 and the steepest year-over-year decline since January 2010. We expect the Comptroller’s revenue estimate in July – which will be a preview of how much money the legislature will have to prepare the next budget. Most of us assume that cuts will have to be made to the budget. Where would you cut the budget and why?
Rainy Day Fund
To follow up on the question about the budget, Texas has one of the largest rainy day funds of any state in the country. It is expected to have $8.5B at the start of 2021. COVID-19 has certainly caused a rainy day in Texas – significant decline in sales tax revenue, unprecedented unemployment and falling oil prices. If we don’t have enough revenue to pay our bills, the question becomes what will we use the rainy day fund to pay for? For example, last session, the rainy day fund was used to pay for Hurricane Harvey expenses. In the 87th legislature, what would you use the rainy day fund to pay for and why?
If elected to the Texas State Senate, what is the first bill you would file and why?