Texas senators want Abbott to weigh-in on tax break

Jessica M. Karmasek Dec. 20, 2011, 5:34am


AUSTIN (Legal Newsline) - Two Texas state senators are asking Attorney General Greg Abbott for his opinion on a pollution control tax break for a San Antonio-based refinery.

Sens. Rodney Ellis and Wendy Davis, both Democrats, argue the state's Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, should reject the tax break request pending before it.

On the other hand, Valero Energy Corp. argues it deserves a benefit -- in this case, a tax break -- for the installation of on-site pollution control technology.

The senators, in their request to Abbott, contend the equipment in question provides "no environmental benefit at or near the site."

Ellis and Davis say if approved, the tax request also could mean a school district outside of Houston would end up paying "tens of millions" to Valero.

"Our kids deserve better than another cynical attempt to pull funding away from their education," Ellis said in a statement earlier this month.

"TCEQ's decision would risk literally millions of dollars being taken from Texas schools, which would come on top of the billions cut last legislative session."

The tax break request, filed by the company in 2007, was originally recommended for rejection by TCEQ staff.

However, that recommendation was disregarded by some on the commission -- Gov. Rick Perry's political appointees, the senators allege -- and therefore the TCEQ is still considering the request.

According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Perry has received the second-most donations in Texas from Valero -- more than $147,000 from the company, its political action committee and employees since 2004.

Both Ellis and Davis are asking Abbott to clarify the intent and the application of the 1993 law allowing for such a tax break.

They say they want to make sure taxpayers and public school students are not victimized by "political maneuvering."

"With Texas schools already facing cuts of more than $5 billion over the next two years, we cannot afford to allow political maneuvering to bleed even more resources from our children's classrooms," Davis said in a statement.

"Favors to political cronies should never be allowed, particularly where they trump the interests of Texas' schoolchildren."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

More News