Texas last week resolved a multi-year dispute over uncollected revenue with Seattle-based Internet sales giant Amazon.com, a company with a physical presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Comptroller Susan Combs, in an April 27 announcement carrying an Austin and Seattle dateline, said Amazon.com Inc. will:
• Begin collecting a state sales tax on July 1;
• Begin creating at least 2,500 jobs in Texas over the next four years; and
• Make at least $200 million in capital investments in Texas.
The three-pronged agreement, according to Combs’ statement, “resolves all sales tax issues between Texas and Amazon.” Officially, Combs is “chief steward of the state’s finances, acting as tax collector, chief accountant, chief revenue estimator and chief treasurer for all of state government.”
In the announcement, Combs also suggested that “Congress should enact federal legislation that will give states access to revenues that are already due, which would resolve this issue fairly for all retailers and all states.”
Amazon.com presently collects state sales taxes in only a few states.
Drought declaration extended
Continuing exceptional drought conditions in Texas prompted Gov. Perry on April 20 to once again extend the state emergency disaster declaration of July 2011. The three-month extension applies to 180 or more than 70 percent of Texas’ 254 counties.
Roads program funds OK’d
The Texas Transportation Commission on April 26 approved $40 million “for repair and rehabilitation of roadways used frequently by the energy industry.” According to the agency that oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, “The energy industry has helped Texas remain an economic strength among states, but subsequent impacts on roadways and bridges, traffic, safety, and the environment have brought about a need for collaboration to lessen the impacts.” Work projects to are scheduled to begin this summer.
GEAR UP grant awarded
The Texas Education Agency on April 27 reported it is one of seven states to be awarded a $33 million federal grant to improve the postsecondary awareness, readiness and success of middle and high school students.
A seven-year grant for Gaining Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, will support some 6,000 students in the Class of 2018, from seventh grade through graduation from high school. The new grant also includes a seventh year designed to help support students in their first year of college, the agency reported.
Take Mom to state park
Mother’s Day 2012 is Sunday, May 13, and looking forward to it, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department floated this novel idea on April 23. “Why not do something special this Mother’s Day by treating Mom to an outdoor adventure and a picnic lunch amid appetite-stimulating scenery at a one of more than 90 Texas State Parks? Not only will mom and the family enjoy a healthier and happier day, but they also will be helping state parks close a budget gap.” Parks and Wildlife, which suffered along with other state agencies in budget cutbacks dealt by the Texas Legislature in 2011, is working toward recovery from a $4.6 million funding gap.
Veterans may borrow more
The Texas Veterans Land Board on April 26 voted unanimously to increase home and land loan limits. Texas veterans may now borrow up to $417,000 for a home and up to $100,000 for a parcel of land as small as one acre, “making it easier for veterans to buy lots closer to urban areas,” according to information published by the Texas General Land Office. A Texas military veteran can simultaneously have a land loan, a home loan and a home improvement loan through the Texas Veterans Land Board, the agency said.
Fleet vehicle grants available
Texas Railroad Commissioners on April 27 announced the availability of about $700,000 in grants “to help public fleets, such as those operated by school districts, cities and counties, purchase new, ultra-low-emission natural gas vehicles.” Funding originally for propane-fueled vehicles is now also for natural gas vehicles “and can be used to offset some or all of the incremental costs of a natural gas fuel system on a new or retrofitted vehicle,” the agency reported, noting however that matching funds for the purchase of the vehicles must come from non-federal sources.
Agency enforces Payday Law
The Texas Workforce Commission on April 26 reported it helped workers collect almost $7 million in unpaid wages in 2011, under the Texas Payday Law. Through the agency’s Labor Law program, Texas workers have an administrative alternative to costly litigation in resolving pay disputes. The agency reported its investigators annually conduct more than 15,000 wage claim investigations statewide.