State Capital Highlights
Abbott picks TCEQ to manage Clean Air settlement funds
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Dec. 4 announced his selection of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as the lead agency for Texas’ participation in the Environmental Mitigation Trust.
The trust was established in 2016 and early 2017 by the settlement of certain federal Clean Air Act claims against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche related to the car companies’ use of “defeat devices” to pass emission standard tests. As a participating state, Texas must develop a draft mitigation plan outlining how it would spend its $209 million share of the settlement funds in efforts to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides.
“Our agency looks forward to developing a plan to efficiently administer these funds to help address issues associated with the emission of nitrogen oxides, which leads to ozone formation,” said TCEQ Commissioner Jon Niermann. “We look forward to working with all stakeholders to develop a plan that effectively mitigates the emissions from vehicles that did not meet the emission standards.”
Comments on the use of the settlement funds may be submitted by email to VWsettle@tceq.texas.gov.
Hurricane help is offered
Many citizens who live in “Presidentially Declared Major Disaster Areas” — like the nearly 50,000 square miles of Texas hit by Hurricane Harvey — have home loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
And of them, those who are having trouble making mortgage payments were encouraged, in a Dec. 4 announcement by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, to contact their service providers to learn about available resources or call the FHA Resource Center at (800) CALL-FHA.
“While we rebuild, many Texas homeowners are facing a second struggle of returning to work and making mortgage payments. To help these Texans, the General Land Office is proud to team with our disaster recovery partners at HUD to help those who need help avoiding foreclosure or assistance in financing repairs to damaged homes,” Bush said.
The Federal Housing Administration, an agency within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, insures more than one quarter of home loans in Texas.
Report cards are posted
State Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Dec. 7 announced Texas’ 2016–2017 School Report Cards are available on the Texas Education Agency website, at http://tea.texas.gov/perfreport/src/index.html.
The purpose of the report cards is to inform parents and guardians about a school’s characteristics and achievements, combining parts of other recently released accountability reports to provide campus-level information detailing student and campus performance.
The School Report Card includes the following information for each campus in Texas:
— 2017 state academic accountability rating;
— Campus distinction designations;
— Attendance rates;
— Enrollment figures;
— Dropout rates;
— Class size averages;
— State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness results;
— ACT/SAT results; and
— Per-student financial expenditures.
These campus reports, required by the Texas Legislature and prepared by the Texas Education Agency, will be sent to the parent or guardian of every child enrolled in a Texas public school by local school districts.
State revenue total is up
State Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Dec. 4 said state sales tax revenue totaled $2.78 billion in November, 11.1 percent more than in November 2016.
“The double-digit growth in sales tax revenue compared to last year was fueled, in part, by increased collections from oil- and natural gas-related sectors. Recent higher oil prices have spurred increased well drilling and completion. Collections from retail trade and restaurants were also up, reflecting growth in consumer spending,” Hegar said.
Total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in November 2017 was up 9.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Sales tax revenue is the largest source of state funding for the state budget, accounting for 58 percent of all tax collections. Motor vehicle sales and rental taxes, motor fuel taxes and oil and natural gas production taxes also are large revenue sources for the state.
Hegar distributes revenue
Comptroller Hegar on Dec. 6 announced he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $695.2 million in local sales tax allocations for December, an amount 10.8 percent more than in December 2016. Allocations were based on sales made in October by businesses that report tax monthly, according to the Office of the Comptroller.