News Roundup: State House Democrats Declare Opposition To Sales Tax Increase Proposal

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMay 6, 2019 3:13 am

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Texas Democrats are pushing back against a Republican proposal to hike the state sales tax by 1%. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer is a San Antonio Democrat. He said at a news conference Monday morning if this increase passes, Texas will be tied with California for the highest state sales tax in the country.

“And I just want you to think about that for a minute: For all of the rhetoric and all of what you hear about doing things differently from those big, liberal, Democratic states is we will have [the] highest sales tax in the nation,” Martinez Fischer said.

Monday’s news conference came mere days after the state’s Republican leadership presented a united front backing the legislation. Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen reaffirmed their commitment to the sales tax hike Friday. They said the increase will help lower school district tax rates.

Reducing property taxes and increasing public school funding are the top priorities of the current legislative session. If the proposal passes both chambers, the measure would be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide. The Texas House is expected to debate the legislation Tuesday.

Oil production continues to grow in Texas, and that’s meant an increase in oil and gas wastewater. Travis Bubenik with Houston Public Media reports that analysts say the challenges of dealing with that water could slow the industry’s growth.

Wastewater comes up with oil and gas, and it’s usually pumped back into the ground in “disposal wells.” But a new report says that process could get expensive in the more remote corners of West Texas – the Delaware and Midland Basins – where the industry’s expanding the most.

Kelly Bennet’s with the water data firm B3: “If water management becomes a huge issue, a very costly issue, it will significantly change the economics of producing in the Permian, which will, therefore, probably mean less production.”

Bennet’s firm expects the industry to be dealing with between $5 billion and $7 billion barrels of wastewater each year by 2028.

It’s not just a financial concern; disposal wells have been linked to earthquakes. University of Texas researchers have found that earthquakes “increased markedly” in the Delaware Basin in 2017. The EPA recently declined to set up new federal rules on oil and gas waste.

Four Democratic presidential candidates stumped in Texas over the weekend, including the state’s own Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro.

One of O’Rourke’s stops was Paul Quinn College in Dallas. The El Paso congressman spoke at the historically black college’s commencement ceremony on Saturday.

“It must be become absolutely clear to every single one of us that progress will not sustain itself, that history can roll in reverse, that victory is never final and the work is never finished,” O’Rourke said.

The other Democratic candidates who visited Texas were South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.