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EDITORIAL Brother, Can You Spare $800 Million? Texas Observer VOLUME 9 3 , NO. 11 A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 The Dallas Morning News headline said it all: “House OKs bills to lure industry, protect animals.” The biggest boondoggle of the session, given equal footing with a bill enhancing the penalty for killing your neighbor’s cat. Animal cruelty is a serious issue, but it’s never been at the top of the list for the Morning News editorial board. One might think a bill draining up to $1.6 billion from the state treasury over the next decade would draw more attention, both in the press and on the floor of the Legislature. How can you slide $1.6 billion under the radar? House Bill 1200, by Kim Brimer \(Roffer property tax abatements to companies building new facilities that employ as few as 10 people. Brimer has been pushing this “economic development” bill for years, blaming Intel’s decision to build in Arizona rather than Fort Worth and Boeing’s recent choice of Chicago over Dallas on our “inflexible tax environment.”What’s new about this version is that the state picks up the tab, reimbursing the districts for lost revenue, which according to the comptroller’s estimates, could total $1.6 billionyes, billionthrough 2011. \(The comptroller also predicted that the bill would bring Texas no more that $100 million in revenue from new economic developmentnot a bargain by any writers were dickering over whether, for example, the cash-strapped budget could accommodate the full $175 million needed for nursing homes in the next biennium, or just $150 million, Brimer and his Senate co-sponsor Chris away the store for the next decade. How did they do it? First, they crafted the bill so that the big financial hit didn’t come due until 2007-2011, allowing Brimer to say the bill had a “positive fiscal note,” which was true, but only in the short term. Using this logic, plus the endorsement of several dozen corporate backers, Brimer lined up over 100 House sponsors for the bill to forestall any open debate on the floor of the House.The bill slipped into the Senate with virtually no discussion of the fiscal impact and no notice from the capitol news corps. In 1999, the measure died in the Senate, but this time Brinier had an ace in the hole: Chris Harris, the Senate sponsor. In an apparent vote-swap that has sparked more than a little muttering around the capitol, Senate Finance Chair Rodney 1200 for a hearing just hours after Harris helped get Ellis’ hate crimes bill finally passed in the Senate. The ensuing “hearing” in Senate Finance was a classic, even by Texas leg islative standards. Harris was at his obfuscating best. His introduction of the bill consisted of perhaps four sen tences, at least three of them false. He incorrectly told committee members that the bill would sunset in 2005, though at that point the bill’s termina tion date was still 2007. He then inti mated that, because the program would end in 2005, before the first compensa tory payouts were to be made from the there would consequently be no fiscal continued on page 15 Editors: Nate Blakeslee, Karen Olsson Managing Editor: Barbara Belejack Managing Publisher: Charlotte McCann Circulation Manager: Candace Carpenter Graphic Designer: Julia Austin Poetry Editor: Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor: Roxanne Bogucka Development Director: Susan Morris Interns: Meiling Guentzel,Will Potter, Chris Womack Advertising Representative: Gene Akins Special Projects: Jere Locke, Nancy Williams , Contributing Writers: Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Louis Dubose, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Paul Jennings, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, Jeff Mandell, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, John Ross. Staff Photographer: Alan Pogue Contributing Photographers: Jana Birchuni,Vic Hinterlang, Patricia Moore, Jack Rehm. Contributing Artists: Jeff Danziger, Beth Epstein,Valerie Fowler, Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Ben Sargent, Gail Woods. Editorial Advisory D’oard: David Anderson, Chandler Davitn, Dave Denison, Bob Eckhardt, Sissy Farenthold, Jol n. Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim HightowT,’ Maury Maverick Jr., Kaye Northcott, Susdh Reid. In Memoriam: ClifFOlo on, 1931-1995 Texas Democracy Foun ation Board: D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston,. Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Gilberto Ocailas. The Texas Observer entire contents copyrighted 2001, is published biweekly except every three weeks during January and August \(24 issues profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin,Texas 78701. Telephone: E-mail: observer ct World Wide Web DownHome page: . Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, Texas. Subscriptions: One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13/year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access:The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Tiwas Observer Index. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. The Books & the Culture section is partially fintded through grants .frow the City of Austin under the auspices of the Austin Arts Commission and the Writer:c League of Texas, both in cooperation with the Texas Connnission on the Arts. 6/8/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3