Additional Legislative Updates
We have reached the halfway point in the 88th Legislative Session. The House Appropriations Committee has concluded its work on HB 1 (budget), and the bill will head to the House floor to be considered in early April. Although there will likely be considerable debate on the House floor about specific points of contention within the bill, it should pass with minimum changes from what the committee members voted out of the Appropriations Committee last week.
A few highlights in the House version of the bill include:
- Health and Human Services will increase 15.8% to $44 billion.
- Education (Public and Higher) will increase 10.4% to $66 billion.
- Public Safety and Criminal Justice will increase 54% to $18 billion.
- Natural Resources will increase 58% to $4 billion.
- Business and Economic Development will increase 48% to $1.7 billion.
These highlights give just a glimpse of the state priorities and where your tax dollars are spent. The other item of significance that has emerged within the House budget proposals is the House version of “property tax relief.”
Under the Speaker’s proposal, the state would cut school district property taxes by 28%. The more controversial aspect of the plan is to place a tighter cap on how much more school districts can tax property owners each year and expand the benefit to include commercial property owners.
The Senate budget process is a bit more opaque. The Senate considered its version of the budget on Monday, March 27, but won’t have final committee vote until mid-April. The Senate version spends increased state money on community colleges, mental health services, property tax cuts, and raises for current and retired teachers. The Senate Finance Committee also set aside $5 billion for teacher pay raises, other educator programs, and money to offer parents private school vouchers.
The Senate property tax proposal is considerably different than the House version. The Senate version of property tax relief came out in three different bills that have already passed the Senate. The most popular portion of the package is SB 3, which raises the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $70,000. SB 4 would also add an additional $5.3 billion into public schools.
The two proposals are considerably different not the least of which are the proposals to address property tax relief. The Lt. Governor recently announced that he was not going to consider the House version of the property tax relief effort, feeling the Senate version was superior.
The Lt. Governor also recently stated that he had no plans this summer and would be happy to spend his time here on these and other issues of interest to him and the Texas Senate.
Out of the roughly 8,000 bills and resolutions that have been filed, there is only one that must pass, and that is the state budget. Failing to pass the budget during the regular session rarely happens. I can recall only once in the past 30 years or so. Regardless, these initial comments and efforts on both sides have set the stage for a more contentious than usual finish. The regular session ends on May 29, 2023.
—TWGGA Legislative Advocate Kyle Frazier