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The Confusing And Murky World Of Tax Loopholes In Texas

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Texas Matters: Taxes are a touchy subject no matter what side you are on, but they exist to raise revenue so closing loopholes is one way to make sure everyone pays a fair share. Also on the show: A look at Tesla Motors effort to open up the Texas market, Texas school districts letting teachers with a CHL carry a gun on campus, and the Texas history behind John Ford's classic film, "The Searchers."

Closing tax loopholes in Texas

The Texas Legislature continues to grind out the next state budget. That means the lawmakers are puzzling where those precious state dollars will flow. But they also are working on who gets a sweetheart deal when it comes to paying state taxes.

These tax loopholes cost the state billions of dollars and there’s a growing chorus for greater transparency in letting the public know who gets them and why. Philip Martin of Progress Texas says many of the Tax Loopholes are shrouded in secrecy.

"One of the worst loopholes is a natural gas exemption for high-cost drilling. It is a 20-year-old law that was in place when we were just starting our natural gas drilling, but it doesn't need to be there any more. We lose about $1 billion every year because of this loophole, and we need to close it."

Also on this edition of Texas Matters:

Tesla Motors try to break into Lone Star market

The Tesla Roadster is one of the hottest cars in the world - critically acclaimed, sleek and electric - but if you want to buy one of these battery-powered beauties in Texas, you’re going to have some problems.

There are no actual Tesla Motors car dealerships in the state but there are two Tesla galleries, in Austin and Houston. Under Texas law, a Tesla employee at one of those galleries can’t do the following:

  • Discuss purchasing, financing or leasing one of Tesla’s vehicles
  • Tell customers the price of a Tesla vehicle or how they might reserve one
  • Offer test drives and refer customers to an out-of-state store that does any of those things

Diarmuid O’Connell is Tesla’s VP of Corporate and Business Development.

"We've found a number of supporters in the Texas Legislature, I would say that the folks we are having difficulty engaging with is the Texas Auto Dealers Association. We have made it very clear that we would be open to a discussion with them about a compromise that would serve their purposes as well as ours, but they have refused any dialogue with us on the subject.

Should teachers and other school officials carry guns in school?

Ever since the 1999 Columbine School shooting there’s been a great concern about the vulnerability of our schools. With the horror of the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary, people are desperate to find solutions to prevent another shooter on campus.

In Texas there’s a growing number of schools allowing qualified teachers and staff to carry firearms. Patrick Michaels writes about it for this in the current issue of the Texas Observer.

"Now there have been, by my latest count, eight more districts that have some sort of program or policy in place to let teachers carry. They are all doing it separately and it's just spreading one at a time as they get this idea. They are all small districts, often far from police, just thinking about, 'Well, if this thing happened to us, what would we do?' And this is the answer that they've come up with."

The Texas History behind John Ford's "The Searchers"

John Ford’s 1956 film “The Searchers” is one of the greatest of the director’s career. Set in Texas, it’s about one man’s seven year quest to find his niece, who has been abducted by Comanche Indians.

John Wayne stars as Ethan Edwards, a man whose hatred of the Comanche is so great, he doesn’t just want to kill them all, he wants to damn their spirits for eternity.

The film may be famous, but less well known is that "The Searchers" is based on real Texas history. In 1836, nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker was stolen from her family in a Comanche raid.

Glenn Frankel’s new book, "The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend," is as much about the history behind the film as the making of the movie itself. Frankel spoke to Texas Public Radio’s Nathan Cone from the KUT studios in Austin.

An interview with Glenn Frankel, author of "The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi