Throughout this legislative interim, leaders of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas have encouraged the membership to testify before representatives and senators to help protect county government and educate lawmakers on important local issues.
The Deep East Texas Council of Governments and
Rep. James White, R-Woodville, hosted a Texas House County Affairs Committee public hearing on March 24 in Livingston, the county seat of Polk County.
The House Committee on County Affairs, chaired by
Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, conducted the hearing outside of Austin upon the request of White, who represents Polk, Tyler, Jasper, Harding and Newton counties. The committee heard nearly five and one-half hours of invited and public testimony.
Polk County Commissioner Tommy Overstreet offered testimony regarding state incentives and rural counties, noting the difficulty rural counties have competing for new industries with only local property tax abatements when nearby states are offering a generous range of additional incentives. County Progress asked Commissioner Overstreet to provide a brief snapshot of his testimony:
I came to testify because the meeting was held locally in our county, and I felt obligated to bring to light some of the concerns we are facing in East Texas.
I chose to address this issue because, while we have the natural resources to develop businesses in East Texas, most of the businesses are moving to states east of us because of incentives offered by other states.
Being that we are the heart of the timber industry, we need to inform lawmakers of the missed opportunities including timber processing plants and jobs that would greatly improve our economy.
Our area could support all types of manufacturing jobs, as we have ample land and water available to support these businesses. We have one thing that many areas in Texas do not, being that we have ample water supply.
It is difficult to get the State of Texas to release the enterprise funds to be able to attract businesses in East Texas.
I prepared for my testimony by looking at the growth of this area for the past 20 years as reported by the U.S. Census, by studying TxDOT reports on traffic counts, and by talking to people in our community.
As I noted when testifying to the committee, most of the manufacturing plants are located on the I-35 corridor, where there are always concerns about water and traffic congestion.
We appreciated that the committee came to East Texas to hear our concerns as we look toward the next legislative session. H