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Fees, charges and out-of-pocket expenses affect Texans' lives and livelihoods
New State Laws

While the 2003 Texas Legislature made significant reductions in many services in its efforts to find a way out of a tough budget situation, it also enacted a series of new laws that will increase fees, charges and other out-of-pocket expenses for many Texas citizens and businesses.

The total for all fees and assessments for which the Comptroller has estimates is $2.7 billion over 2004-05. There are other items that will have a cost but which can't be estimated at this time.

There was significant cost-shifting in the state's medical care and prescription drug programs for children, for teachers and other school employees, and for state workers.

The largest single new cost to Texans is a cut in the amount teachers and other school personnel receive to cover the cost of health insurance. It will effectively reduce teachers' pay by $711 million in 2004-05.

Active and retired teachers will also see higher costs for insurance co-pays and premiums, and active teachers will pay a higher contribution rate to the Teacher Retirement System. School folks will bear $1.08 billion of the state budget reductions in 2004-05.

For businesses and professions, a range of new fees will cover the cost of state administration of regulatory programs. A new fee on electricians and electrical contractors, for example, will raise about $3.9 million over two years.

There are potential fee increases for real estate personnel, private investigators, security dealers, homebuilders and inspectors, locksmiths, mortgage bankers, court reporters, landscape architects, interior designers, land surveyors and property tax consultants.

The Legislature also increased a number of fees on health professionals. One example is an added fee on nurses estimated at $39 per applicant to cover criminal background checks. Total health-related costs for health professionals and related groups will increase by $596 million in 2004-05.

"These new fees, charges and out-of-pocket expenses are not the only increases Texans are going to pay. These are only the new increases passed during the recent regular session. This list does not include any additional fee hikes made by agencies under existing authority," Strayhorn said.

For more information about new and higher fees, charges and out of pocket expenses Texans will pay starting September 1, go to http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxbud/newfees/.

Bruce Wright