AUSTIN (KXAN) — State lawmakers approved two huge policy overhauls of property taxes and public school finance.
After both reforms were scuttled in 2017 because of passionate disagreements between the two chambers, House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 2 passed the Texas House 139-0 and Senate 30-0 and will move on to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk. The Governor is expected to sign these bills into law in the coming days.
“We never lost sight of our goals, to do what’s right for the people and students of this state. The Speaker was right when he called House Bill 3 the Texas Plan because this bill is a road map for the future of Texas,” said Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, as he laid said closing remarks before the House vote on HB 3. Rep. Huberty was the lead author of the school finance bill in the House.
Since the beginning of the session, state lawmakers have churned through lengthy hearings, detailed reports and come out with policy changes that were decades in the making.
House Bill 3 would pump $11.6 billion into the Texas public education system and $5 billion to pay down local school property taxes, guaranteeing a greater share of school funding from the state in the future. Additionally, $6 billion would increase teacher pay, pay for full-day pre-Kindergarten for low-income students, and to help districts launch innovative programs.
HB 3 includes raising the amount each school district will get per student by around a thousand dollars: from $5,140 to $6,160. The reform would also force the state to pay down around $200 of property taxes for a home of $250,000 — known as “compressing” the tax rate. HB 3 would also decrease the amount of “recapture” payments, the controversial policy that forces property-wealthy school districts like Austin ISD to help pay for the schools in property-poor school districts.
Teacher pay was also prioritized in HB 3, requiring districts to pay teachers with five years experience more, implementing a merit pay program to reward teachers who perform well.
Austin Democrat Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, in a statement, said these “compromise bills” would not have happened without major Democratic gains in the Texas House.
“Democrats have championed these policies for years, but we have been unable to advance them under Republican one-party rule,” said Rep. Rodriguez, “In 2018, voters roared in disapproval of the status quo and rewarded Democrats with 12 new seats in the Texas House. Republicans took notice, and in HB 3, many once-‘progressive’ ideas are embraced as good public policy.”
Senate Bill 2 would require voters to sign off in an election if city or county governments grow more than 3.5 percent year to year; the rate is 2.5 percent for school districts. Over time, state leaders hope this will slow the growth of local property taxes.
Saturday night, Abbott indicated he’d sign the bills into law. In a statement, Abbott said:
“For far too long, Texans have seen their property taxes skyrocket as they are reduced to tenants of their own land. Tonight, the Texas legislature took a meaningful step in reinforcing private property rights by reining in the power of local taxing entities, providing more transparency to the property tax process, and enacting long-awaited appraisal reforms.”
Thursday, Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, joined top negotiators from the two chambers to announce that the broad details of the legislation were agreed to.
Now, lawmakers have to vote them into the books and Abbott must sign off.
They must do all that by Monday when the 86th Texas legislative session ends.