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Perry's tax relief plan still short on details

Jan. 9, 2013 at 10 p.m.


AUSTIN (AP) - Gov. Rick Perry says the time has come for Texas to look at tax relief again. But he's not yet saying for whom or how.

Emboldened by a resurgent Texas economy, Perry on Wednesday repeated his call for the Republican-controlled Legislature to tackle tax relief this session but didn't offer any further details than when he rolled out the goal a day earlier while ringing in a new session.

The last one in 2011 began with a $27 billion budget shortfall, which left lawmakers scrambling to plug budget holes and makes talk of easing taxes now a total turnaround.

Any framework for tax relief likely won't emerge for several weeks while the most inexperienced Texas Legislature in more than four decades - more than a quarter of the 150-member House are freshmen - settles into the Capitol. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said homestead exemptions may get a second look, while other targets could include extending sales tax holidays and changes to the state's franchise tax on businesses.

Perry, who remains mum on his future following this session after a failed run for president, seized on tax relief to again hammer at Washington following the fiscal cliff deal in Congress that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

"What a stark contrast it can be over the next 130-plus days that Texas is sending the absolutely opposite message," Perry said. "That we're going to lower the cost, lower the burden of doing business in the state of Texas, or living in the state of Texas. That's part of the conversation that we want to have."

Welcoming that conversation are Dewhurst, who opposed tax-relief proposals in 2007 but says a rosier economic forecast now makes the timing better, and House Speaker Joe Straus.

After being re-elected Tuesday for a third term as speaker, however, Straus made clear to reporters that his top priorities are not taxes but education, infrastructure and water.

"There's going to be a call for some tax reform, maybe some tax relief somewhere. There always is," Straus said. "But there's more of a call this time, and more of an agenda that I've been trying to push, to make sure Texas can accommodate the enormous and profound growth that we've seen in recent years that will go on unabated."

Even without a concrete plan on the table, Democrats are already blistering at calls to prioritize taxes.

The last major tax relief happened in 2006 when property taxes were cut statewide by up to a third, but expected revenues to replace that money have underperformed.

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