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Texas Tax Changes Short on Delivery
Tax changes made by the Texas Legislature in 2006 haven’t delivered revenue to offset local school property tax cuts. A higher business franchise tax was projected to bring $4 billion into the state’s general fund, but the actual amount was $2.7 billion less than expected.
The state constitution requires voter approval for increases to personal income tax rates, but the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that business taxes do not require voter approval, according to The Statesman in Austin. Therefore, state legislators are planning to simplify the law.
The business tax is a major source of revenue in Texas, second only to the sales tax, and is needed to pay for basic state functions. Collections from both taxes slumped along with the economy in recent years, forcing lawmakers to cut state spending to balance the budget.
Speaker Joe Straus has charged the House Ways & Means Committee with evaluating the state’s entire tax structure. The committee will determine the effects of taxation on economic growth, capital investment and job creation. As part of the review, the committee is to “evaluate the franchise tax and determine whether the tax structure should continue to exist in its current form or in a revised form, or whether the existing tax structure should be repealed and replaced with a different business tax.”
A $1.3 million federal grant will help Missouri improve the state’s recreational trails. The Recreational Trails program, an assistance program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, funds the development, improvements and maintenance of recreational trails and trail-related facilities. The money from the program will be divided among 11 trail projects.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE
CVS Caremark notified some physicians in Florida, the nation’s “pill mill capital,” that its retail pharmacies will not fill prescriptions written for schedule II narcotic controlled substances. Florida’s new prescription drug database, which allows pharmacies and law enforcement to track prescriptions, may be the cause of the retailer’s decision. Supporters of the database say as pill mills are closed, prescription drug abusers are turning up at retail pharmacies, some of which are cautious of the surge in new customers.
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was hoping to call the legislature into session in December to address new natural gas regulations, according to the Charleston Daily Mail. For two years, legislators have debated regulating the gas industry, which has expressed interest in drilling from a large underground supply of gas in the Marcellus shale rock formation that extends from New York, through West Virginia and into Ohio.
The Minco II Wind Energy Center in Oklahoma recently began operations to generate power for a 130,000-square-foot Google data center, according to NewsOK. NextEra, the owner of the wind farm, negotiated a 20-year contract with Google to supply power to the facility. NextEra Energy Resources has more than 300 wind turbines in operation in Oklahoma with a capacity of nearly 550 megawatts.
The Tennessee Senate Lottery Stabilization Task Force has made its recommendations to close a widening deficit in the scholarship fund financed by the state lottery, The Tennessean of Nashville reported. Beginning in 2015, the plan would reduce by half the $4,000 scholarship for students who don’t achieve both a 3.0 or greater grade point average and at least a 21 on their ACT tests. The recommendation also included an additional $10 million for needs-based scholarships.