State looks at ways to move some workers out of Austin

AUSTIN ‘ Austin’s in no danger of losing its status as capital of Texas, but an effort is being made to move some state employees and offices out of the city. The numbers won’t be final before the state’s 2002-2003 budget is, but the spending plan likely will include provisions to move some jobs and offices out of congested downtown Austin. Currently roughly 38,000 state employees are based in Travis County, about a quarter of the state’s workforce. If that seems like a low number, remember that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s prisons are scattered all over the state, as are law enforcement officers and employees of the Department of Public Safety, Park and Wildlife Department and local employees of most other state agencies, from mental health caseworkers to tax officials. Despite all the office buildings it owns, the state leases 137,000 square feet of space in downtown. The General Services Commission, which oversees state property, says nearly $1 million a year could be saved if the offices occupying the leased space in Austin were relocated to outlying cities such as Round Rock and Georgetown. No wholesale changes are in the offing this session, but it is a trend that likely will continue. Get free money! Actually, it was yours to start with. The Texas Department of Insurance says 29,000 Texas employers are owed workers’ compensation refunds amounting to nearly $15 million. To see if you are due any money, check the insurance agency’s web site at www.tdi.state.tx.us. This money is from a surcharge imposed in 1992 when the state first set up its Workers Compensation Insurance Fund. By 1999, the fund had a large surplus and the Legislature did away with the surcharge and mandated that insurance companies’which had passed the surcharge cost along to customers’refund the money. Another $ deal If you hold a Super Combo (hunting and fishing) license from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, you are entitled this month only to a discount at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. Normal admission price is $5.50 for adults, but during April Super Combo holders can get in for $2.50. If your party is larger than four, the fifth person on up gets in for $3.50 each. Caution: Visiting this facility in Athens likely will leave you with a near irresistible urge to go fishing. No yoke, Texas chickens lay lots of eggs Not eggactly Texas’ biggest brag, but according to the Texas Agricultural Statistics Service, the Lone Star State is the nation’s seventh largest producer of eggs. No 1 is Ohio, of all places. Texas hens laid some 4.4 billion eggs in 1999, an average of 250 eggs per hen. With the wholesale price for a dozen eggs being about 65 cents, total value of the Texas egg crop that year was $240 million’not exactly chicken feed. If you’re thinking about going out and buying a chicken as a first step in the egg business (actually, it would take two) average for one is $2.80.

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