Capital Highlights 09-17-15

BY ED STERLING, TEXAS PRESS ASSOCIATION

Neighbors agree to work on trade, energy projects

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott traveled to Mexico last week to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto and other officials in Mexico City.

On Sept. 8, the governor’s office announced an agreement between the Texas Department of Transportation and the Ministry of Communications and Transportation of the United Mexican States “to promote and increase bilateral collaboration on future border infrastructure projects.”

Also announced was the creation of an energy task force “to foster economic growth on both sides of the border by finding new and innovative energy solutions.”

Abbott said the agreements signify Texas’ and Mexico’s “intent to expand highway infrastructure, encourage economic development and facilitate bilateral trade on both sides of the border.”

The governor’s office quoted Claudia Ruiz Massieu, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, who said “such a deep and diverse relationship as the one Mexico and Texas share flourishes when there is communication and mutual understanding. Governor Abbott´s visit reflects the will to take that path.”

On Sept. 6, the governor’s office announced that in 2014, Texas exported more than $100 billion in machinery, technology and other commodities to Mexico, about 35 percent of the state’s total exports. And, it was said, those exports “sustain tens of thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses in Texas and more than 1.1 million jobs.”

Perry suspends campaign

Rick Perry suspended his campaign for the presidency on Sept. 11.

Perry, who served as governor of Texas from 2001 to 2015, made the announcement at a rally of the conservative Eagle Forum in Missouri. 

Perry’s first run for the presidency was in 2012. Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, won the Republican Party’s nomination and lost to Democrat Barack Obama in the general election.

Comptroller begins tour

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Sept. 8 announced plans for a 27-city, two-month “Good For Texas” tour, during which he will meet with local officials and citizens to talk about the future of the Texas economy.

First stops were in New Braunfels and Kerrville on Sept. 9. Plans are for Hegar to visit every economic region of the state before his last stop in El Paso on Nov. 9.

Hegar said that since taking office on Jan. 2 he has “emphasized efforts to increase transparency and accountability at the state’s chief financial agency, while improving customer service. The town hall tour is intended to facilitate those efforts and help keep Texans informed of economic issues in their own backyards.”

Sales tax revenue is down

Comptroller Hegar on Sept. 10 reported state sales tax revenue in August was $2.6 billion, down 0.4 percent compared to August 2014.

“The slight decline in sales tax revenue was due to reduced receipts from oil and gas-related sectors, offset by growth from other sectors,” Hegar explained. Higher collections from retail trade, restaurants and services indicated continued growth in consumer spending, while receipts from construction also grew, he added.

Cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts will receive $638.1 million in local sales tax allocations for September, an increase of 1.7 percent compared to September 2014.

Texas’ fiscal year ended Aug. 31. Hegar said “All Funds” revenue for the year finished at $109.5 billion, slightly less than the $109.7 billion projected in the comptroller’s Biennial Revenue Estimate. Also, sales tax revenue for the year was 0.6 percent below estimate, at $28.9 billion. The forecast was $29.07 billion.

Energy chief applauds ruling

David Porter, chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, applauded a ruling last week by U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas that overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Two months ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported an abundance of spring rainfall and ongoing management efforts helped increase the lesser prairie chicken’s population about 25 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Cucumber warning issued

Texas Department of State Health Services on Sept. 4 warned that recalled cucumbers may be contaminated with Salmonella. 

Certain cucumbers that entered the market in various states including Texas were sold under the brand name  “Limited Edition.”

“This type of cucumber is dark green, typically seven to 10 inches long and usually sold in bulk bins and may not be easily identified by label or sticker. People should talk to their retailer or supplier about whether their cucumbers were part of the recall,” the health department suggested.