SB1158, which would give citizens in Hopkins County the opportunity to vote to approve or disapprove an increase in county sales tax up to one-half percent and remove the 7% per $100 dollar valuation property tax increase currently adopted to fund a new jail under construction, is currently in the Senate Finance Committee with no current movement. According to Senator Bob Hall’s Chief of Staff Amy Lane, “At this time, we are working on the Committee Members for their support to ensure that the bill has the necessary votes to make it out of committee. Once the bill gets voted out of committee, it would then go to the Senate Floor for a full Senate Chamber vote.”
In recent days, Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom noted that time is running out on the bill. The sales tax would take the place of a property tax increase this year and could be used only for the cost of the jail. Although the increase in sales tax would end when the county jail is paid for, the increase would make Hopkins County the highest sales tax county in the state.
Judge Newsom and three county commissioners traveled to Austin April 21st to address the finance committee in support of the bill. On that day, Newsom and commissioners requested, “Give us a chance to vote.”
There are now three things that can happen: 1) A vote by the finance committee to pass the bill on to the Senate floor, 2) a vote by the committee to not pass the bill to the Senate (8 of 15 votes are needed to move the bill to the senate floor), or 3) the bill can die in committee.
The tax revenue from the potential additional sales tax could only be used to pay for the jail and could not be used for the general fund. Although property taxes would decrease should the sales tax increase be chosen by voters, the county could raise property taxes as soon as the next year and any increase in the evaluation of property could also increase what property owners would pay the county in taxes.
Sulphur Springs City Council has gone on record opposing SB1158 as has the Texas Tax Payers Association who sited that the senate finance committee has denied other local option elections regarding sales tax increase based on the state losing control of the sales tax should such votes be allowed.