With just over a month until the Texas Legislature is slated to return, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick previewed his priorities for the upcoming session, including property tax relief, protecting the state’s electric grid, and raising teacher pay.
Patrick’s announcement came in the form of a press conference shortly after the Legislative Budget Board approved the spending cap for the upcoming biennial budget. With the state facing an over $27 billion surplus, pressure has grown for lawmakers to return the money.
Gov. Greg Abbott has stated that “at least half” of the money should go toward property tax relief, committing to put the state on a path toward the elimination of school property taxes. This plan was endorsed at the time by Patrick, who said the amount should be “at least half” of the surplus.
Patrick’s current proposal, which he warned were “general concepts” that he would like senators to think about before the start of the the session, calls for an increase in the homestead exemption, a move he estimated could cost $4-5 billion over the course of 2024-2025.
“Much of what I’m laying out today is not specific because it’s really up to the members to write the bills in the Senate and the House,” said Patrick.” It’s good that the Legislature’s back. We have an extraordinary opportunity, unlike we have never had before, to chart the future of the state of Texas and create a vision.”
Patrick did indicate, however, that more could be done.
“We need to do more than just the homestead exemption, whether it’s a one-time dividend to taxpayers, and that’s a little difficult to do constitutionally,” said Patrick. “But we need a robust property tax cut for everyone in the state.”
Patrick did warn, however, that he did not want to bust the spending cap for property tax relief, saying it could set a “dangerous precedent.”
On the issue of the electric grid, Patrick said more needs to be done to ensure a similar blackout like the one that affected the state during the winter storms in 2021 does not happen again.
“We need to redesign the market to make sure there is enough generation and there’s enough power,” said Patrick. “We can’t leave here next spring unless we have a plan for more natural gas power.”
“If you can’t turn the lights on, you don’t have a Texas miracle,” he added.
On the issue of education, Patrick echoed his previous calls for increasing pay for current and retired teachers, as well as increased student aid to prospective teachers and school safety funding. Shannon Holmes, the director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the state’s largest teachers union, said that while the proposal was “welcome,” she was also cautious.
“At the 30,000-foot level, those sound good. But the devil is always in the details, and we urge lawmakers to listen to the feedback of public educators as they craft these plans to ensure they are designed to ultimately provide maximum benefit for Texas students,” said Holmes.
The Legislature will convene on January 10, 2023.
Patrick’s full list of priorities is below:
Property Tax Relief
– Raise the Homestead Exemption for More Homeowner Tax Relief
– Cut Taxes for Businesses by Expanding the Personal Property Tax Exemption
Electric Grid Reliability
– Build More Natural Gas Power Plants to Add Needed Megawatts
– Level the Playing Field Between Renewable Energy and Dispatchable Energy to Ensure Reliability
Border Security and Law Enforcement
– Rural Law Enforcement Fund
– Sheriff Pay Enhancement
– 10-year Mandatory Minimum Sentence to Criminals Who Use a Firearm in the Comission of a Crime
– Recall District Attorneys and Judges who Refuse to Follow Texas Law
– Continue Border Security Funding
Education and School Security
– New Fund for non-PUF Schools
– Expand Usage of Current Scholarship Programs for Teachers and Law Enforcement
– Increase Teacher Pay
– 13th Check or COLA for Retired Teachers
– Empower Parents by Giving Them a Voice in Their Children’s Education
– Continued School Safety Funding
– Reform Tenure in Higher Education
Moving Texas Forward
– Continued Investment in the State Mental Health System
– Finish Alamo Restoration
– Retire Debt Where it Saves Money
– Restore Voter Fraud to a Felony
– Ensure Timely Counting of Votes and Review of Machines