Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen blamed grassroots Texans for criticisms of his time on the job atop the state’s lower chamber Tuesday.
In an interview with a West Texas radio station from the Texas Capitol Tuesday morning, Bonnen paraded House Bills 1, 2, and 3 as major accomplishments for the state.
“From the House side, it’s going exceptionally well,” Bonnen said of the session thus far. “It’s great to be able to reduce property taxes by $2.7 billion and [Robin Hood] recapture by $3 billion.”
Bonnen was making the most of the little progress the members of the House have made on his self-described top priorities. For example, the $2.7 billion has been called “not substantial” by one of the legislative supporters, and it pales in comparison to the $6 billion in new spending.
The host, Chad Hasty of Lubbock, asked about what number the body will eventually agree on as it pertains to property tax reform, inferring some members are not happy with the 2.5 percent trigger and that the number would be higher for education than for taxing entities.
“Well, first off, it wasn’t taken out because people were unhappy. The reality of it is that that was something we were going to address in House Bill 3,” Bonnen said. “We’re all happy with 2.5 percent in the House for education.”
And yet when House Bill 3 was presented on the floor of his chamber, no effort was made to include that 2.5 percent trigger.
Hasty then asked about the criticisms of the chamber that have been in several headlines lately, regarding the chamber being less conservative than in sessions past.
Bonnen dismissed criticisms and deflected on the subject, diverting to attacking conservatives for not thinking highly of him, as well as the substance of the proposals the lawmakers are putting forth and whether they deliver on the promises made before the session.
Then Bonnen was asked about the lack of unanimity on one of the key proposals to come through, HB 3—the school finance bill. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) was the only ‘no’ vote on the bill.
“Because he was told to vote against it by the people who make their living attacking us,” Bonnen remarked.
Stickland took to Facebook to defend his lone vote against the bill:
“’Robin Hood’ was not permanently addressed,” his statement reads. “I could not in good conscience vote for this bill and then pretend like I support my conservative principles and district. The bill is now headed to the Senate, where I hope our concerns are dealt with and our students get their fair share. I want to thank all of our ISDs who have been so responsive and eager to provide information to our office.”
“It’s a shame that people have to make a living to spread lies so they can raise money and attack Republicans,” Bonnen continued. “The reality of it is, I was elected by the Republican caucus.”
Bonnen further flexed his muscles by touting the so-called tax cuts contained within the bill.
“When was the last time someone cut their property taxes by 2.7 billion dollars?” Bonnen posed, “Is that not conservative?”
The criticism of the $2.7 billion floor for tax relief is very real, with many conservatives continuing to prod further as to why so little of the state’s $9 billion surplus is being given back to taxpayers in the form of meaningful relief and why the Texas House has decided to instead grow government by nearly 16 percent.
Meanwhile, Bonnen’s Ways and Means Committee is considering raising the state’s sales tax and dedicating 25 percent of the revenue to new government spending programs. HJR 3 by State Rep. Dan Huberty (Humble) was supposed to have had public testimony offered before the committee this morning, but the hearing has since been delayed.
“The members are going to drive those issues, as they have all session,” Bonnen said in closing, something he continues to maintain despite growing concerns of the politicking that continues behind the scenes.