Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

April 29, 2013

Senator Nichols: My five cents


AUSTIN — 3. Electricity surcharge money to be returned

Early this week the Senate passed SB 1655 to return funds generated from an electricity surcharge back to ratepayers. This payment would consist of a one-time credit of $120 to customers in certain deregulated areas of the state.

In 1999, the System Benefit Fund was established and a maximum fee of 65 cents per megawatt hour began being charged to individuals in deregulated parts of the state. That money is then used to provide discounts for low-income individuals.

However, the fund has only been spending a portion of the money they take in for this purpose; the rest has been used to balance the budget.

SB 1655 still has to pass the House, and a portion of it will have to be approved by constitutional amendment, but my hope is that we will ultimately be able to give this money back to the customers who overpaid.

4. Constitutional amendment

On Tuesday the Sen-ate unanimously passed a constitutional amendment, SJR 1, that asks Texas voters to approve spending $5.7 billion of the Economic Stabiliza-tion Fund (commonly referred to as the rainy day fund) for water projects, highways and schools.

At its current growth rate, the fund would have about $11.8 billion in two years if left untouched.

Specifically, the proposed $5.7 billion would be allocated to give $2 billion to long-term water planning and projects, $2.9 billion to transportation to avoid taking on more debt through road bonds that are currently planned and $800 million for public education to help restore some of the money schools lost last session.

It takes a two-thirds vote by each chamber to pass a constitutional amendment, but if passed, voters will have a chance to vote on the measure November 5th.

5. House votes against Lottery Commission before voting for it

A very unusual thing happened in the House on Tuesday: Represent-atives first voted against HB 2197 to reauthorize the Lottery Commission, 65-81.

However, after considering the hole it would make in the state budget ($2.2 billion over the next 2 years), they voted again and decided to keep it, 91-53. The bill will now make its way to the Senate, but I wouldn't "bet" on the same thing happening here!


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