With the second special session now underway, the Texas Senate and House have both moved quickly to advance their differing property tax relief plans.
But while the House moved its same legislation putting $12 billion toward the compression of school taxes, the Senate tweaked their proposal at the insistence of a Democrat member.
Senate Bill 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 1 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) would place the majority of funds toward compression but would also increase the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,00. The legislation would also lower the limit of the annual growth of school district revenue from 2.5 percent to 1.75 percent.
In a move to appeal to business owners, the Senate proposal would also increase the exemption for the state’s business franchise tax from $1 million to $2.47 million, making an additional 67,000 businesses exempt from paying the tax.
San Antonio Democrat State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who has been rumored to be a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz, proposed an amendment to add teacher pay raises to the bill.
After over an hour of deliberation, the chamber unanimously supported an amendment that would add a $2,000 supplemental payment to teachers in urban school districts and $6,000 to rural districts.
The proposal is estimated to carry a price tag of $3.2 billion.
The addition is similar to legislation passed by the chamber during the regular session that would have increased teacher salaries. The legislation was accounted for in the budget, but it did not ultimately make it to the governor’s desk.
Supporters of the pay raise say it’s a stopgap measure for an effort already budgeted for, while others have bemoaned the fact that teacher pay raises are being discussed while property tax relief is still dwarfed by the size of the state’s surplus.
Both measures passed the Senate unanimously and have now been sent to the House.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has opened up the opportunity for discussions with House Speaker Dade Phelan, but he has remained steadfast that the Senate will not pass a bill that only includes compression.
“I sent the speaker a text last night that said the best way to resolve this is face to face…and they have responded and are looking forward to a meeting,” Patrick told members, indicating that such a conversation would likely not happen until next week.