Texas House Making Headway On Its Vision
For Property Tax Reform

Friday, March 18, 2005                        By Shawn Wade

      Members of the Texas House ofRepresentatives approved their version of property tax reform on March 15.House passage shifts focus on the issue to the Texas Senate, where that body isworking out the details of its’ own brand of property tax relief.

      The House version (HB3),introduced by Representative Jim Keffer of Eastland, was passed on Tuesday,March 15 after consideration of amendments during debate on the House floor.The highlight of the House bill is a reduction in the current $1.50 school ratecap to $0.997 and requiring school districts currently permitted by law to havea tax rate above $1.50 to cut their current rate by $0.503 cents.

      Additionally, the Billspecifies that 15 percent of the growth in non-constitutionally dedicated statefunds from the current and next biennium be dedicated to reduce school rollbacktax rates to a floor of $0.75.

      Another key element of theBill is reform to the current state Franchise Tax structure. During floordebate, an amendment dealing with the Franchise Tax was adopted replacingArticle 2 of the original legislative language approved during committeedeliberation.

      The original language wouldhave imposed a payroll tax of 1.15% on the first $90,000 of employee wages onall businesses, not just corporations and limited liability companies. Therevised language now allows most businesses to opt to pay the payroll tax withno cap, or a modified franchise tax.

      The amendment includesseveral changes in the current franchise tax code. Among the amendment’schanges are that any business with employees subject to the unemploymentcompensation tax would now be subject to the franchise tax.

      The amendment also providesthe taxpayer the opportunity to elect to pay franchise taxes calculated on thebasis of the Reformed Franchise Tax (RFT) structure or the existing FranchiseTax (FT) rates. Special rules were also included to deal with businesses thathave no Texas employees or that “lease” employees.

      Exemptions granted by theHouse’s Franchise Tax rules include small businesses with less than $150,000 inTexas receipts and 501c(3) non-profit corporations.

      State sales tax changes arealso included in HB3 language. Among the changes are raising the sales tax rateto 7.25 percent, and expanding the sales tax base to include billboardadvertising services, motor vehicle repair services, motor vehicle wash anddetail services, water sold in sealed containers and elective cosmeticprocedures. The changes noted above would become effective October 1, 2005. HB3would also reduce the amount of the discount for timely filing of sales taxesfrom 0.5 percent to 0.33 percent.

      Other sales Tax changesinclude: raising the motor vehicle sales tax to 7.35% effective September 1,2005.

      Also, beginning October 1,2005 the average retail value, as established by TxDOT, will become thepresumptive value of a motor vehicle for sales tax purposes unless thepurchaser provides evidence of a different value; boat and motor boat sales taxrate would increase to 7.35% effective September 1, 2005; a 3% discretionarytax on sales of soft drinks and snack foods, on top of the applicable sales taxamount, would be imposed; and, cigarette taxes would be increased effectiveSeptember 1, 2005.


TASS WorkingTo Gather Final
2004 Upland Cotton Production Numbers

Friday, March 18, 2005                        By Shawn Wade

      Statisticians with the TexasAgricultural Statistics Service are working to gather cotton ginnings data forinclusion in the Final Cotton Ginnings Report for the 2004 crop year.

      The final report is used formuch more than just totaling the amount of cotton ginned in Texas counties eachyear. The information provided by gins to TASS is also used to determine andverify county level cotton production each year.

      TASS depends greatly on thecooperation of Texas cotton gins to gather and report the most accurateinformation possible. All data collected by TASS is kept strictly confidentialand reports are aggregated to avoid disclosure of individual data.

      When submitting final ginningdata, gins are encouraged to be as accurate as possible and specify the numberof bales ginned as well as the county and state in which the bales wereoriginally produced.


2005 Seed Cost Calculator Updated March 16

Friday, March 18, 2005                        By Shawn Wade

      It took less than a week andproducer requests have already resulted in a revised 2005 Seed Cost Calculator.

      The latest version was postedon the PCG website Wednesday, March 16 and features an additional worksheetthat illustrates the impact of the Monsanto Cap Cost Program in 2004 and 2005.The new worksheet will allow growers who utilize higher seeding rates, forexample rates above 56,000 seed per acre, to see how their tech fees areimpacted by participation in the Roundup Rewards Cap Cost Program.

      The Monsanto Cap Cost Programsets an upper limit on technology costs per acre for those growers who meet therequirements of the Roundup Rewards Cap Cost Program.

      Producers interested in usingthe new calculator can download a copy from the PCG website (www.plainscotton.org). The PCG calculator is aninteractive Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that allows producers to calculate anestimated cost per acre for both seed and technology, based on publishedsuggested retail prices.