Thursday, March 30, 2006


Hensarling names Texas’ unprotected border woes
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor staff Writer

MABANK–The problems connected with border security in Texas actually affects all America.
Issues such as economics, security, safety, drugs were discussed by U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling Tuesday as he addressed a group of voters in Mabank.
“This is not about ethnicity – it is not about who makes a good American. It is about controlling our borders,” Hensarling said.
What was once a trickle has changed to a flood, he said as he listed statistics related to the 1,254 miles where the Rio Grande divides Texas and Mexico.
“In just one year, border agents in South Texas caught 137,083 illegal aliens and arrested 2,048 smugglers,” he explained.
Today’s unprotected borders are creating problems unknown only a few years ago.
Another change Texans have witnessed is the violence along the border, he said.
He listed problems such as heavily armed drug cartels who don’t hesitate to commit murder, welfare problems costing Texas $100 million a year, education costs up from $2 to $4 billion a year to educate illegal immigrants, and finally, crime committed by illegal immigrants.
“We cannot continue to provide welfare for illegal aliens,” he said.
The Dallas police officer, Brian Jackson, was shot and killed by an illegal alien, who was arrested and turned loose twice before committing the murder, Hensarling said.
“Not containing our southern border represents a very significant threat,” Hensarling said.
He added he would like to see an end to the catch and release type program for OTM (other than Mexican) immigrants that use Mexico as a doorway to the United States.
The OTM’s are caught and then released until a later court date
“Catch and release should be for bass, not illegal immigrants,” he said.
Both the Bush administration and Congress are striving to strengthen border security with 1,500 new border agents and 6,700 new detention beds planned for in the fiscal year 2007 budget.
The House of Representatives recently passed the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Act.
If signed into law, Hensarling said it will add more border patrol agents, stricter screening procedures at border checkpoints, and more stringent length-of-stay guidelines.
“The United states is a nation of immigrants and should remain so. But we are also a nation of laws. Those who enter the wrong way must be held accountable,” he said.
Several times during the meeting, Hensarling emphasized he understood the plight of those who cross the borders to work hard and feed their families.
“However, illegal immigration is a flagrant violation of our laws,” he said, adding, “Illegal immigration is a threat to our civil society.”

Perry calls special legislative session
Monitor Staff Reports
AUSTIN–Gov. Rick Perry announced he is calling a special session of the legislature beginning at 2 p.m. Monday, April 17, ending no later than May 16.
The mission is to reform school financing. It’s the fourth extra session called on this subject in two years.
“We’re ready to do what must be done,” Rep. Betty Brown told The Monitor.
“We will find the very best solution we can that’s fair to property owners and meets the needs of the children of Texas,” she said.
In anticipation of the session, various business lobbying groups have formed to ensure that the proposed tax relief to property owners doesn’t fall unfairly on the backs of businesses.
One new group represents the interests of two dozen leading manufacturers.
The Texas Association of Manufacturing, headed by Tony Bennet, a vice president of Temple-Inland, a paper products manufacturer and financial services provider, is concerned that any tax proposal does not hurt industry’s ability to compete.
Another group made up of 18 large law firms objects to a plan that would set no more than $300,000 in personal income as deductible from gross receipts before additional taxes come into play. The coalition argues the figure should be raised to at least $500,000 per employee.
The Legislature’s inability to reform the $33-billion-a-year school financing system, going back to 2003, is greatly attributed to the business community’s opposition to contributing a larger tax portion.
Business leaders have claimed Texas businesses already carry a greater tax burden than businesses in most other states.
A special commission headed by former state comptroller John Sharp proposes a plan that calls for a new, broadened business tax, which includes many professional firms for the first time to cut school-related property taxes by a third.
This amount of relief is deemed to satisfy the Supreme Court’s ruling, calling for the overhaul of the current school-property-tax system. The Court set a June 1 deadline for reform.
The preliminary plan offered by the Texas Tax Reform Commission calls for revamping the business franchise tax, raising the cigarette tax and tapping a billion dollars of the state’s budget surplus.
A sales tax increase is not included in the proposal as of yet.
Revisions to the business tax would tax gross receipts of most businesses, excluding sole proprietorships, general partnerships and companies earning less than $300,000 a year.
Corporations and limited partnerships subject to the tax would be allowed to deduct either employee compensation, including benefits, or the cost of goods or raw materials.
Most firms would pay a 1 percent tax, while retailers and wholesalers would pay a 1/2 percent tax.
It is hoped that this aspect of the plan would produce about $4 billion a year, the majority of the new revenue needed to offset the nearly $6 billion in lost revenues resulting from lowering school property taxes a full third.
A $1 increase on every pack of cigarettes, totaling $1.41 in state taxes, is expected to generate $800 million a year.
Most business owners would like to see some of the additional funding to come from an increase in sales tax and not all of it drained from industry, according to Bill Hammond, executive director of the Texas Association of Business.
Longtime Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, is circulating his own plan, via e-mail to all House members, proposing a decrease in property taxes by 15 percent and paying the rest out of the state’s $4.3 billion surplus.
He claims it will be very hard to pass a tax bill while the state has a surplus.
He admits his plan is only a short-term solution that may be righted in the next regular session.
Brown said she feels it’s a little early to support one plan or another, though a little bit of a surplus will help.
“I’ve been there when we’ve had a surplus and when we’ve been $10 billion short. Each has its own unique challenges,” she said.
Sharp warns that Chisum’s plan could leave the state with a deficit, especially if lawmakers cannot make progress on a new tax system in 2007.
A deficit would make Texas a prime target for gambling and casino interests, or for institutionalizing an income tax to fill the shortfall.
Sharp also points out a 15 percent decrease in property taxes may not satisfy the court as reformation of the tax system.
“This special session provides legislators of both parties a rare opportunity to significantly reduce property taxes, and make substantial reforms to the franchise tax so it is fairer and broader, and ensure our schools have a reliable and constitutional stream of revenue,” Perry said.