Comptroller says state will not borrow to meet budget

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Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on July 7 announced his decision not to go the usual route to insure that Texas meets its budgetary obligations.

The state’s chief financial officer explained that every year for the past three decades the state has issued a Tax Revenue Anticipation Note to deal with “periodic mismatches” between revenues and expenditures during the fiscal year and “anticipated mismatches” that result from the state’s providing nearly 50 percent of its payments to local school districts in the first three months of the fiscal year.

According to the Office of the Comptroller, the state will not issue a Tax Revenue Anticipation Note for fiscal 2016 “as a result of strong fund balances, sound fiscal management and conservative budgeting.”

And, Texas will fully repay its current Tax Revenue Anticipation Note ($5.4 billion borrowed last year to bridge budget gaps) on Aug. 31, the last day of the current fiscal year. State settles with Farmers Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on July 6 announced the approval of a settlement with Farmers Insurance Group that he said would return $84.4 million to policyholders.

The settlement stems from a 2002 case filed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Department of Insurance.

Paxton said that according to state investigators Farmers deceived consumers and engaged in discriminatory practices for a period of five years that in some cases had consumers paying excessive amounts for premiums while having their coverage reduced without their knowledge.

“People in Texas and across the country need to have confidence in the companies they depend on to insure their homes, health and property,” Paxton said. “Any company that overcharges and deceives its customers out of their hard-earned money must be held accountable and I’m pleased that Texas consumers will finally have closure in this case.”

Under the court order, a settlement administrator has been assigned to handle restitution to consumers. Notices about the settlement will be mailed within 60 days to people who may be eligible for a refund, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

Sales tax revenue decreases

Comptroller Hegar on July 8 said his office would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts their July local sales tax allocations totaling $609.8 million, an amount representing an increase of 1.2 percent compared to July 2014.

Hegar also said state sales tax revenue in June was $2.2 billion, down 1.4 percent compared to June 2014.

“This slight decline was expected due to the slowdown in the oil and gas mining sector, and is in line with the biennial revenue estimate presented in January,” Hegar said. “Receipts from the construction, information, restaurant and services sectors continued to grow, however, which is a testament to Texas’ diverse and dynamic economy.”

This marks the first decline in state sales tax revenue following 62 consecutive months of growth.

RRC offers toll-free number

Texas Railroad Commission on July 6 publicized (844) 773-0305, its new toll-free telephone number for citizens to report emergencies to the oil and gas industry-regulating agency. In announcing the toll-free number, the agency also stressed the importance of calling 911 first in any emergency situation.

Commission staff are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer emergency calls related to oil and gas exploration and production, intrastate pipelines and alternative fuels, including propane, said David Porter, chair of the commission.

“The new toll-free emergency line at the Commission is intended to provide additional support and make contact with our staff more streamlined and efficient, both during an event, and as part of any subsequent investigation,” Porter said.

Court rules on flag plate

The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled 5-4 in favor of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles in a case brought by the Texas Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Plaintiffs sued over the agency’s decision not to adopt a license plate bearing an image of the Confederate battle flag.

Justice Breyer, in writing the majority opinion of the court, said, “Just as Texas cannot require Sons of Confederate Veterans to convey the State’s ideological message . . . Sons of Confederate Veterans cannot force Texas to include a Confederate battle flag on its specialty license plates.”

ED STERLING is the Director of Member Services at Texas Press Association.

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