Dewhurst Fears State's Tax Structure Will Affect Health Care

9-1-05 - School property taxes will remain high and health care problems could worsen if Texas does not revamp its tax structure, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said.

"That's one of the reasons I wanted to get a broad-based business tax for school finance," he told the Houston Chronicle's Editorial Board Wednesday.

Lawmakers failed to overhaul the state's tax after five attempts in regular legislative and special sessions over the last three years. Dewhurst unsuccessfully proposed a business tax break for health care during one of the sessions in December.

Education, health care and other public needs could receive more funding with a tax that treated different forms of business and all sectors of the state's economy equally, Dewhurst said. The plan could include tax breaks for companies that provide health care plans for their employees.

About 65 percent of Texans without health insurance have jobs that don't provide affordable health benefits, Dewhurst said. Taxpayers end up paying those costs through emergency room visits or the Children's Health Insurance Program, he said.

The Senate and the House approved different business tax proposals in plans to lower school property taxes during the regular legislative session last spring.

But the deal failed after Dewhurst, the Senate's presiding officer, and House Speaker Tom Craddick could not agree on a compromise.

Meanwhile, the Texas Supreme Court is considering the state's appeal of a district court ruling last fall that the school finance system is unconstitutional and inadequately funded.