AUSTIN-Businesses can get a clearer idea of how much franchise tax they are going to pay because of tax law revisions, and the state is welcoming feedback on the new rules.

The rules implementing changes mandated by the state Legislature were published in the Sept. 14 edition of the Texas Register, and a 30-day public comment period started.

The 79th Legislature in 2006 and the 80th Legislature in 2007 devised changes to the franchise tax to help pay for a sweeping property tax cut.

“It is important for all franchise taxpayers, especially those who will be required to report franchise tax for the first time, to review these proposed rules,” Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said.

The Legislature revised the franchise tax by changing the tax base and the tax rate and extending coverage to most legal entities. About 200,000 new entities will have to file franchise tax reports in 2008.

The rules are expected to be adopted in December, according to the Comptroller’s office.

Taxable entities with total revenue of $434,782 or less and entities that calculate they owe less than $1,000 in franchise tax will not be required to pay the tax, but will still have to file a report, Combs said.

How to pay for it is the question

Texas transportation officials announced plans to form a working group to figure out how to pay for the Ports-to-Plains Corridor road-building project.

Ports-to-Plains is a proposed divided highway running from Laredo through West Texas to Denver, Colo. Designated as a High Priority Corridor by Congress in 1998, planners intend Ports-to-Plains to expand economic opportunity and serve international trade from Mexico to Canada.

Despite the congressional designation, adequate federal funding has not been provided to cover the cost of the project, officials said.

In addition to economic development and job creation, officials said the corridor could provide a way to transfer energy generated by wind turbines in West Texas to other parts of Texas and the Southwest.

Amnesty program

brings in bucks

Comptroller Combs’ tax amnesty program, Project Fresh Start, brought in more than $100 million in unpaid taxes from June 15 through Aug. 16.

The amount included more than $90 million in state taxes and more than $10 million owed to local governments, Combs said.

A total of 1,258 businesses reported and paid delinquent taxes. Between 3 percent and 5 percent of those were new taxpayers operating businesses without required tax permits and without paying state taxes.

In exchange for their cooperation and payment, the comptroller waived penalty and interest charges normally added to delinquent taxes.

Land board rejects all proposals

The School Land Board, chaired by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, on Sept. 18 rejected all six bids for the purchase of the 9,200-acre Christmas Mountains ranch tract in Big Bend.

Patterson said a mistake in the map of the tract in the original bid specifications was the reason.

The Land Board, which will meet again in November, is expected to consider bids again.

“Moving this land out of government hands is in the best interest of the land and those who want to preserve it,” he added.

Language certifications approved

If a Texas public school teacher wants to be state certified to teach a foreign language, the choices are Spanish, French, German or Latin at the secondary school level.

But beginning in October, they can become certified to teach Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Vietnamese in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade classes.

Karen Loonam, director of educator standards at the Texas Education Agency, said “These five new certificates were created to be responsive to the needs of multicultural communities and to prepare students for increasing globalization of the economy.”

Institute releases traffic report

Austin is considered a high-congestion city, traffic-wise, and a new report has numbers (mobility data) to prove it.

Texas Transportation Institute, a division of the Texas A&M University System, published its 2007 Annual Urban Mobility Report for cities across the nation, including Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Laredo and San Antonio.

To read the report, go to http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/.