In his biannual “State of the State” address, Gov. Greg Abbott laid out his priorities for the 86th legislative session, naming six emergency items.
While most bills may not be considered by the legislature until after the first 60 days, emergency items declared by the governor are given a head start, and can be taken up anytime.
“I am honored to work with [Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick] and Speaker Bonnen as we embark on this new session,” Abbott said in his opening remarks. “A session, by the way, that will etch landmark achievements into this already historic chamber.”
As expected, school finance reform and property tax reform were among the emergency items listed by Abbott during the nearly hour-long speech.
“If we are going to keep Texas the economic engine of America, we must rein in a property tax system that punishes families and businesses and prevents younger Texans from achieving their dream of homeownership.”
Abbott also added that the state would be making “new investments” in education and reducing Robin Hood.
“This isn’t just about restraining the growth of property taxes, it’s about restoring power to the people of Texas. That’s why I propose giving taxpayers the ability to fire their property tax appraiser and elect a better one.”
House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2, two identical bills addressing property tax reform, were filed last week, with the Senate already having scheduled a committee hearing on Wednesday to take public testimony.
Both bills would slow down the increase of property taxes, but would not do anything to provide property tax relief to decrease the tax bills of any Texan.
In fact, the word “relief” was absent from the entirety of Abbott’s remarks.
Increasing teacher pay, which Abbott and Patrick had mentioned during their inaugural speeches, was also listed as an emergency item, with Abbott again pointing to legislation filed by State Sen. Jane Nelson (R–Flower Mound) which would offer teachers an across-the-board $5,000 pay raise.
“Texas must recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers to educate our students. This session, we must pay our teachers more,” said Abbott. “We must provide incentives to put effective teachers in the schools and classrooms where they are needed the most.”
Other emergency items include school safety, mental health, and disaster response in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
“Texas was built on bold ideas,” Abbott said in closing. “It was built by the men and women who came before us who worked together to make Texas the most exceptional state in the nation. Now it is our time to chart a course that will make Texas even better — not just for the next four years, but for the next forty years.”