Texas: The Issue Is — State Rep. James Talarico pitches inflation relief bills

What to do with the multi-billion dollar budget surplus is one of the big questions of the 88th Texas Legislature. 

Republican leaders have spent a lot of time focused on competing plans to use the extra money to provide property tax relief, as well as pay raises for teachers and retirees. 

State Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) is pitching a more direct idea. He has a package of bills described as inflation relief that would pause the collection of several state related fees for a year. Now, this moratorium would be on tolls, vehicle registration and inspections, as well as creating another sales tax holiday in January for household goods.

Talarico sat down with FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski for this edition of Texas: The Issue Is.

REP. JAMES TALARICO: This is trying to provide immediate relief to working families and our community. Folks are feeling the pinch of global inflation. Unfortunately, the legislature has limited tools to address global inflation. But what we can do is provide immediate relief to those working families.

RUDI KOSKI: These total authorities have obligations. And how do you expect them to pay when you do the pass?

REP. JAMES TALARICO: So my bill would use a little bit of the historic budget surplus that we have here in Texas to keep textiles whole so we wouldn't be sacrificing transportation funding levels. All we'd be doing is letting working families off the hook for paying these fees the next year.

RUDI KOSKI: How much is this going to cost? Have you done any kind of estimates about.

REP. JAMES TALARICO: I've collected about 1% of the budget surplus could be used to provide this one year pause in total fees.

RUDI KOSKI: This inflation break isn't limited to toll roads. You have other ideas in doing a pause.

REP. JAMES TALARICO: I've put together a package of bills that would help provide inflation relief to working people across the state of Texas. So pausing toll roads for one year, pausing vehicle registration fees for one year, and then creating a sales tax holiday at the beginning of the year that folks can go out and buy household items tax-free.

RUDI KOSKI: I hear the lieutenant governor, I hear the governor and other Republicans say this is about giving the money back. This is about giving the money back.

REP. JAMES TALARICO: That's exactly right. In the most direct way possible. You know, I don't want to see tax breaks for wealthy corporations or wealthy individuals. I want to see relief for working people in our state. And oftentimes they get the shaft here in the Capitol. My bill is about providing relief directly to them.

RUDI KOSKI: Do you want this to be a one and done thing or do you see this as a recurring opportunity, or do you think this could be something that maybe we revisit over time?

REP. JAMES TALARICO: I think it's a great way, whether it's the toll pause, whether it's the vehicle registration pause or whether it's the sales tax holiday. These should be ongoing efforts to provide some relief for working people across the state who are facing rising cost of living in every community around Texas. 

RUDI KOSKI: Are you getting any buzz, any traction in the House side? And what about the Senate?

REP. JAMES TALARICO: I mean, I think there's bipartisan support for this kind of approach. I think we just got to make it a priority. And that's why folks need to call their state reps, their state senators, and tell them we need inflation relief now.