Cornerstone - Fall 2015 - (Page 10)

Big Money for Contractors and Other Victories for the COMMERCIAL CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY BY ZACHARY T. BUCHHEIT, LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT, TEXAS BUILDING BRANCH IN AN 84TH TEXAS LEGISLATURE dominated by hot-button issues like gun rights, border security, transportation and ethics reform, the construction industry quietly collected some huge victories. Those wins for contractors primarily came in the form of billions of dollars in new work and economic development. The tone for the session was set from its very first week in January when the state comptroller's office released its $113 billion revenue estimate for 2016-17, an 11 percent boost from the previous biennium. That figure set the stage for a session-long debate about cutting taxes and fulfilling state needs, all while uncertainty grew over dropping oil prices. Under the dome, new leadership tussled to make good on campaign promises to cut taxes. Dozens of freshman legislators-including an AGC Austin Chapter chairman-learned the ropes. And all the while, the team at AGC Texas Building Branch studied thousands 10 of pieces of legislation and met with key lawmakers and their staffs to proactively advance important contracting initiatives. New Leadership Shapes the Conversation With several new faces stepping into statewide executive roles, including governor and lieutenant governor, the Legislature saw themes emerge with many issues viewed in the context of the session's biggest push-tax cuts. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was fresh off a campaign season with a vow to reduce the state's property tax burden. That promise led to an initial Senate budget boasting $4 billion in tax cuts, with most going to homeowners and the rest to businesses. The headline-grabbing intentions of Patrick's budget prompted Gov. Abbott to vow to veto any budget not containing substantial business-tax relief, which he reiterated in his State of the State address. The sweeping February speech also staked out Abbott's top five initiatives-ethics reform, pre-K expansion, transportation, border security, and higher education research funding. The first-term governor counted successes in each category except for a major ethics reform bill that fell short in the final days of session. Tax-Cut Measures Divide the Dome The extraordinary revenue influx the state saw this session made it likely that newly elected leaders would get their wish to give dollars back to taxpayers. But the question of how to return that money quickly became an issue of heated debate and jockeying. While both chambers agreed on some form of relief from the state franchise tax, the Senate plan to reduce property taxes was pitted against a call in the House to cut the state sales tax. The tax battle put several other funding measures on hold and meant a budget could not be finalized until tax cuts were resolved. Eventually, the two sides compromised on a 25 percent across-theboard cut to the franchise tax coupled with a $10,000 increase in the homestead property tax exemption, saving homeowners about $125 per year on their tax bills. The franchise tax-cut measure, which Abbot signed into law, will save Texas businesses more than $2 billion in the next two years and allow more businesses to use a simplified method of computing what they owe under the tax. As the $210 billion, two-year budget took shape in the last few weeks of the session, other funding issues were freed up and began to move through the legislative channel. Among those areas held hostage by the budget debate was a key AGC initiative that hadn't seen substantial support since 2006-higher education capital funding. Specifically, universities were seeking funding for college classrooms, labs and academic buildings to accommodate students on expanding campuses across the state. Rumblings about a push for tuition-revenue bonds for campus construction had been Cornerstone

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Cornerstone - Fall 2015

From the Chairman of the Board, Bill Scott, III
From the President/CEO, Jerry Nevlud
Big Money for Contractors and Other Victories for the Commercial Construction Industry
Best Practices: Look Before You Leap – HR Advice on Knowing the Whole Story
In Memoriam: Remembering AGC Houston Members
Midyear Meeting Recognizes Excellence in Safety
AGC Houston Members Recognized at Texas Building Branch 2015 Convention
Committed to Safety
Past Events
Member News
C3 Hosts Town Hall Meeting for Specialty Contractors
Index of Advertisers/

Cornerstone - Fall 2015