March 11, 2003
City to crack down on tax scofflaws

The City of Houston is proposing new rules to its contracting ordinance that will forbid any business from doing business with the city if they or one of their owners owe more than $100 in city taxes.

After months of fine tuning -- such as defining ownership and determining what debts will be included -- City Council's Regulatory Affairs Committee approved the changes Monday and referred them to the full council.

"This has been a long time coming," said Councilman Mark Ellis, the committee chair who spearheaded the proposed changes. "We limited it to ad valorem taxes, so we could get our arms around it. We might look at other areas where businesses and individuals are indebted to the city."

Since October, Ellis has delayed contracts of businesses that owe the city money. Several delinquents have been shamed into paying.

Under the proposals, each contractor wanting to do city business must sign an affidavit listing anyone who owns 5 percent or more of their company. Nonprofit companies will be required to list officers.

The controller's office will pass that information to the city's delinquent tax collection firm -- Linebarger Goggan Blair and Sampson -- to determine whether companies or individuals owe property taxes. Any owing at least $100 may not do business with the city.

This is great news, but I have to ask: What took them so long? Heck, why wasn't this the case under Mayor Lanier, or Mayor Whitmire, or Mayor Hofheinz, get the point.

Never mind. Let's focus on the positive, which may get even more so if the Texas Lege cooperates:

The ordinance does not apply to competitive bids -- about 70 percent of the city's contracts -- which by state law require the city to do business with the "lowest responsible bidder."

That would change if a bill by Sen. Jon Lindsay, R-Houston, amends the state law, allowing the city's ordinance to apply to all contracts.

Damn straight, and about time. Kudos all around.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 11, 2003 to Local politics | TrackBack

We could try to get the idea into play that 'not paying taxes is prima facie evidence of irresponsible behavior.'

Posted by: Michael on March 11, 2003 12:31 PM