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Boost for public school teachers included in Texas Senate's property tax relief plan

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks explains to reporters at the Texas Capitol his initial plan to cut property taxes in Texas on March 14, 2023.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick explains his initial plan to cut property taxes, at the Texas Capitol on March 14.

Welcome to legislative overtime, part two.

Lawmakers reconvened in Austin Wednesday, tasked by Gov. Greg Abbott with finally figuring out a way to lower Texan's property taxes.

But already, Texas legislators seem poised to hit the same roadblocks and disagreements they faced during the state's first special session.

For the second time in over a month, the Texas Senate on Wednesday passed its plan to cut property taxes. The chamber’s plan includes redirecting state funds to buy down school district’s maintenance and operations taxes while also increasing the homestead exemption.

The measure is similar to the plan the Senate passed last month during the first special session, a proposal that fell flat after failing to receive support in the Texas House.

Senators on Wednesday also unanimously approved an amendment by Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, that would amend the constitution to provide a $2,000 supplemental payment for teachers in urban areas, and a $6,000 supplemental payment for those teaching in rural communities.

“This is legislative work right here,” Gutierrez told his colleagues from the Senate floor.

Competing plans to tackle property taxes

Under the Senate’s proposal, nearly $18 billion would be used to increase the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000 for most homeowners, and to reduce public school districts maintenance and operation tax rate.

An additional $3.2 billion would be used to cover the supplemental payments for teachers over the next two-year budget cycle.

But these cuts and salary bumps are subject to the full Legislature passing them, andvoters supporting the constitutional amendment for teachers in November.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, called the pair of bills “exceptional.”

“The public has already approved homestead exemptions by 85 to 87 percent,” Bettencourt said Wednesday before the vote. “I cannot imagine them not approving this by the same amount because this is a supplemental payment to some of the hardest-working people in the state of Texas.”

The Senate’s vote came on the first day of the second called special session.

But, once again, the measures seem to have a grim fate.

A Texas House panel on Wednesday moved forward a property tax relief plan that does not include increasing the homestead exemption. Instead, the House proposal only includes about $12.3 billion to buy down the rate of the school districts maintenance and operation property taxes.

This proposal has been favored by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Republican House members on the House Ways and Means Committee didn’t talk to reporters after the committee’s vote.

When asked for comment, Chairman Morgan Meyer, R-University Park, told reporters “I’m good right now, but thank you!”

No signs of negotiations

As of Wednesday afternoon, it was clear that the Senate and the House continue to double down on their respective proposals.

The chambers now have just 29 more days to get together and negotiate an agreement. If not, Gov. Abbott has promised to keep calling for special sessions until legislation gets to his desk.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has said the Senate proposal will give the most benefits to the most people, told lawmakers Wednesday he reached out to House Speaker Dade Phelan to schedule a meeting.

“I sent him a text and said the best way to resolve this is face to face,” Patrick said. “I believe we can get this resolved quickly.”

Phelan’s office didn’t reply to a request for comment from The Texas Newsroom.

Patrick added that he hopes the House passes the legislation adopted Wednesday by the Senate.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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