Gov. Greg Abbott on Dec. 1 issued the following statement on the Nov. 30 death of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States:
“The state of Texas mourns with the nation at the passing of one of our greatest presidents. George H.W. Bush was an American hero and icon, he was a friend to all he met, he embodied class and dignity. Texans are genuinely honored that he called the Lone Star State home and we collectively grieve this monumental loss. On behalf of Texas, Cecilia and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the Bush family in their time of need.”
Bush, 94, a Republican, served as the president from 1989 to 1993. He served as vice president from 1981 to 1989 alongside President Ronald Reagan. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Texas Congressional District 7, from 1967 to 1971, and went on to serve the nation in many other high-level appointed positions.
Fund transfer is completed
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Nov. 29 announced the transfer of $2.77 billion into the State Highway Fund and the Economic Stabilization (“Rainy Day”) Fund. Each fund received more than $1.38 billion or 50 percent of the total transfer, Hegar said.
The transfer amounts are based on crude oil and natural gas production tax revenues in excess of 1987 collections. If either tax generates more revenue than the 1987 threshold, an amount equal to 75 percent of the excess is transferred.
In November 2014, voters approved a constitutional amendment allocating at least half of these severance taxes to the Rainy Day Fund, with the remainder going to the SHF for use on non-toll highway construction, maintenance and right-of-way acquisition.
When fiscal year 2018 ended on Aug. 31, the Rainy Day Fund balance was $11.04 billion. The new balance of $12.48 billion, not accounting for currently outstanding spending authority, will decline as agencies spend down the remaining appropriation authority, Hegar said.
Also, the high balance helps Texas maintain its AAA credit rating. “That’s why I have asked the Legislature to authorize me to invest a portion of the fund in a more prudent and responsible manner and use the returns to address the types of long-term liabilities that have crippled the finances of states such as Illinois and New Jersey. Significant portions of this money have not been keeping up with inflation, and we must not allow the power of this asset to erode over time,” Hegar added.
Returns reach landmark
Comptroller Hegar on Nov. 29 announced his office had returned $1 billion in unclaimed property to rightful owners since he took office in January 2015.
“This landmark achievement represents the commitment this office has made to reuniting unclaimed property with its rightful owners,” Hegar said. “I’m proud of the folks in our Unclaimed Property program, and I encourage everyone to go to our website and see if there is money waiting for them.”
About 830,000 claims have been approved while Hegar has been comptroller, he said, and since 2015, the comptroller’s office has redesigned its unclaimed property website and internal systems to make the claims process faster, easier and more efficient.
ClaimitTexas.org allows users to upload claim documentation and is mobile-optimized to make it easier to search for unclaimed property on smartphones and tablets. The state has returned more than $3 billion in unclaimed property to its rightful owners since the program’s inception in 1962, Hegar added.
Tax scammers target many
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Nov. 26 warned Texans that entities impersonating the Internal Revenue Service are sending fraudulent email messages.
Fraudsters may use the subject line “tax transcripts” in email messages that attempt to bait Texans into opening links and documents that contain malware designed to steal sensitive financial data.
Paxton said the IRS never calls or emails citizens to demand repayment for penalties, and if any citizen receives a fraudulent call or email message they should call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
“My office stands ready to assist hard-working Texas consumers. The consumer protection section of our website contains several resources on how to recognize, prevent and report scams like this. Being informed is the best way to prevent fraud and loss,” added Paxton.
Many may purchase units
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush on Nov. 28 announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency granted a program under which Hurricane Harvey survivors still residing in temporary housing units may purchase the federally funded manufactured housing units and travel trailers.
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance is set to expire on Feb. 25, 2019, 18 months after the date of the disaster. Currently, there are 1,582 households in temporary housing units — manufactured housing and travel trailers — administered by the Texas General Land Office.
Counties agreeing to participate in the sales program include Austin, Calhoun, Galveston, Harris, Jasper, Jefferson, Newton, Orange, Polk, San Jacinto, Tyler and Victoria. However, some cities within those counties have opted out of the program.
FEMA approval of the sales program for the housing units “provides Texas communities with one more tool in our recovery toolbox,” Bush said.
Ed Sterling is the member services director for the Texas Press Association. His column is a weekly aggregation of news about the state’s government.
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