Taxpayers to feel brunt of state laws
By 06/12/2003 00:00:00
More taxes and fees on the way
The Ellis County Press
ELLIS COUNTY - Taxpayers, get ready.
Because what the state legislature did in Austin this year will have a direct impact on thousands of Ellis County homeowners, teachers and parents seeking to send their sons or daughters off to a state-run university.
Auto title transfer fee
Mandates by the federal Clean Air Act will cause vehicle owners to pay a $33 title transfer
fee on cars and trucks; originally, the cost was $13, but due to the numerous air-pollution violations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the state tacked on the $20 fee.
Also, operators of diesel trucks and equipment will be charged additionally to help fund clean-air measures; the state authorized those fees as a result of the Bush Administration's environmental policies passed this year.
Telephone customers will also see an increase in their monthly phone bills.
Southwestern Bell Corp. and Verizon, the state's two largest telephone service providers, will be allowed to raise their monthly rates on long distance, high-speed internet access and local calls as a result of a law passed this year.
'Our biggest concern is the potential for weakened telecommunications competition,' said Ted Heydinger, director of Texas for Economic Progress, a free-market competition consumer group. 'Without choice, services will be less affordable, less accessible in some parts of the state and the quality may be less than adequate.'
The telecommunications industry was deregulated several years ago, but the access to public utility lines weren't; SBC has been fined millions for their refusal to allow competitive companies access to the lines.
County records fees
And residents can expect to pay more at the county courthouse or the district clerk's office; a law passed by the state legislature would tack on a $5 tax for the records management and preservation when filing civil actions. A $15 tax was added to child custody motions with the district clerk, as well.
Teacher health insurance
Teachers in Ellis County could soon be paying up to $600 for health insurance, after the state's $10 billion budget deficit forced lawmakers to scrap the $1,000-a-year benefits package it gave them two years ago.
College tuition fees
Students in Ellis County planning to attend a state university will likely see tuition fees double as a result of spending cuts in higher education during the recent legislative session.
A law was passed granting Texas A&M, Texas Tech, the University of Texas and all other state-run universities to increase their tuition rates by 50 percent, and after two years, the law would allow the schools to raise tuition rates as high as they want.
'It's always a bit of a struggle getting the money together for tuition,' said Ovilla resident Corey Fuller, who attends Texas A&M. 'I'm fortunate in that my parnets take care of that for me so the burden doesn't sit completely on my shoulders. Some of my friends aren't so lucky though.
'For them, it means another loan and more hours of work during the school year.'
No new taxes, just additional fees
State lawmakers were forced to deal with a free-spending legislature from two years ago, having to recuperate from a $10 billion budget shortfall.
Still, lawmakers pride themselves on keeping their 'no new taxes' pledge, but despite those stances, many residents consider the additional fees, charges and 'adjustments' as another tax.