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Comptroller News

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

Strayhorn proposes parity in pay for Texas judges

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn released a report in December on judicial pay that recommended bringing Texas' judges' pay in line with their counterparts in other states.

"My report found that Texas judges earn much less than judges in other states, and even first-year lawyers," Strayhorn said.

In Special Report on Judicial Pay, Strayhorn recommended increasing district judges' state salaries by 5.21 percent and lifting the cap on local supplements. Judicial salaries in higher courts would be based upon the average salary of district judges in the five largest metropolitan counties, including local supplements. Appeals courts justices would be paid 110 percent of that amount, and justices of the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court would earn 120 percent of the average salary of district judges, including local supplements, in the five largest metropolitan counties.


TAXES

Strayhorn saves taxpayers $2 billion

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn declared victory on behalf of Texas taxpayers over USAA Insurance Company's fight to avoid paying its fair share of taxes.

In 2001, USAA sued the Comptroller's office, claiming that it had been erroneously charged for taxes it should not have owed. The company argued it should not have had to pay any state taxes that other businesses pay other than gross premium taxes under Chapter 4 of the Texas Insurance Code.

Had USAA prevailed in court, it could have set a precedent for which the state could have been liable for up to $2 billion. Comptroller Strayhorn vowed to use all the tools in her arsenal to ensure USAA kept paying taxes that "Mom and Pop businesses all across this state pay."

"Clearly, the law does not exempt insurance companies from paying the same taxes every other business pays," Strayhorn said. "Texas belongs to no special interest groups. It belongs to all Texans. I will always defend the people of Texas against any special interest searching for a way to shirk its responsibility. No one should be treated differently."


ECONOMY

Strayhorn estimates budget $400 million in the black

A scant $400 million extra will be available after meeting current spending levels of state government over the next two years, according to the biennial revenue estimate, which Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn released in January.

Strayhorn reported to the 2005 Legislature that the state will have $64.7 billion in general revenue available for her certification of the budget for the 2006-07 biennium. Revenue available from all funds of state government, including federal funds, will total $130.5 billion.

The 2005 Legislature will have $6.4 billion more in general revenue than the 2003 Legislature appropriated. However, Strayhorn said $6 billion of that new money would be needed to maintain current spending levels through fiscal 2007.


SALES TAX

State records 16 months of sales tax growth

The state collected $1.35 billion in sales tax revenue in December, up 8.3 percent compared with December 2003, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn announced in January.

Comptroller Strayhorn sent January sales tax allocations of $223.1 million to Texas cities, up 9.4 percent compared with January 2004. Texas counties received sales tax payments of $19.5 million, an increase of 11.6 percent. Another $9.3 million went to 89 special-purpose taxing districts, up 17.3 percent compared with January 2004, and nine local transit systems received $77 million in sales tax allocations, an increase of 4.6 percent.