In a shopping statement, Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis spoke at Macy's historic downtown location on Monday to promote the upcoming sales tax holiday, one that Ellis hopes will be seen as a back-to-school buying power weekend.
"Although we're facing some tough economic times, I think that this tax cut is a way of helping working class Texans more than anyone else," Ellis said.
Ellis is credited for passing Bill 441 in 1999, which called for a $506 tax relief package and the creation of the tax-free holiday. The 12th annual tax holiday will take place this Friday through Sunday.
A staunch supporter of the bill, Ellis worked during the past legislative session to expand what is tax-exempt during the holiday with House Bill 1801. Now, in addition to clothes, footwear and some backpacks, school supplies under $100 will be temporarily sold free of tax.
"We're going to make a push to include computers in the future, because it's now an essential item," Ellis said. "This morning, I went to Ryan Middle School and Kashmere High School. It's important to help these kids and recognize that technology has changed quite a bit. We need to increase the items and increase the number of days."
Ellis also spoke strongly in opposition to any movement to withdraw the holiday in efforts to close state budget gaps (Texas currently faces a shortfall exceeding $18 billion).
Ellis, whose sprawling senate district includes great wealth and great poverty, says he is looking out for lower-income families.
"In Texas, the average low-income family is paying up to six times more of its income in state sales tax than high-income families." (Whereas low-income families pay 5.9 percent of their income, high-income families only count a 1.8 percent loss, according to Elllis' stats.)
"Furthermore, the income inequality is at an all-time high," Ellis said. "In Texas over the past two decades, the income gap between our richest 20 percent and middle 20 percent has grown to be the largest in the country, and that's why we do this."
Since the holiday began in 1999, shoppers have saved $442 million, and Texas comptroller of public accounts Susan Combs predicts shoppers will save $59.3 million this year.