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'Hell will freeze over': Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he won't budge on the GOP's priorities this legislative session

Texas' lieutenant governor talks property tax legislation, parental freedom and the stalled push for his priorities in the 88th legislative session's final weeks.

DALLAS — Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick slammed the Texas House of Representatives’ property tax bill on Tuesday, making it clear that he will not negotiate with what he calls the House’s "bad math" on lowering property taxes and saying that "hell will freeze over" before that chamber’s plan passes.

"'California Dade' over there wants to give us a tax plan like California and New Jersey and other blue states that skyrockets the tax rate," Patrick said in an interview for Inside Texas Politics, referring to House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont). "Property taxes under their plan will actually go up. We’re not going to let that happen."

The Senate passed a bill to lower property taxes by increasing the homestead exemption from $40,000 annually to $70,000.

The House of Representatives' legislation would limit how much school districts can tax property.

Property tax relief is one of the biggest priorities that members of both parties, in both chambers, set out to accomplish when the legislature gaveled into session in January.

The House and Senate will soon assign conferees, who are lawmakers from each chamber, to negotiate and settle on one of the two plans.

With less than six weeks remaining before lawmakers are required to adjourn, Patrick was asked in the interview what he is willing to trade to get the Senate version passed.

"Look, I can negotiate on anything," Patrick told Inside Texas Politics. "That’s part of the process. No one gets 100 percent of anything in any bill. But I’m not going to negotiate bad math. I’m not going to take away $15,000 from seniors over the lifetime of their home, and I’m not going to take away $25,000 over a 30-year mortgage from people under 65. I’m not going to do it. Hell will freeze over before I do that. Why would we walk away from that?"

Another priority for many grassroots conservatives is school choice, letting parents use state tax dollars to send their child to a private school. For years it was called "school vouchers." Over the last year it was rebranded as "Education Savings Accounts." Either way, many suburban and rural Republicans remain opposed to it.

The Texas House voted it down again recently, but Patrick told WFAA on Tuesday afternoon that the issue is not dead this session.

The wide-ranging interview with the lieutenant governor also discussed whether the legislature is doing enough to protect children against school shootings, whether Patrick would campaign against Republicans who oppose school choice and whether it’s proper for the governor to pardon Army Sgt. Daniel Perry, a convicted murderer in Austin, rather than let the justice system play itself out.

The interview was a victory lap of sorts for Patrick as 28 of his 30 legislative priorities have passed as of Tuesday, including conservative staples like outlawing critical race theory at universities and banning children from drag shows. But Patrick also got other broader issues passed in the Senate, including giving teachers and rural law enforcement officers pay raises, creating a mandatory 10-year prison sentence for criminals who commit crimes with a firearm and expanding mental health hospital beds across the state.

But with six weeks remaining in the session, Speaker Phelan and the Texas House appear to have the most work ahead of them and perhaps control of what legislation eventually looks like.

The clock is ticking, and it’s up to Phelan and the House to move the priorities, settle differences with the senate and give the governor something to sign.

Still, Patrick told Inside Texas Politics that if the Texas House doesn’t pick up the pace on passing bills, then he will consider whether to force a special legislative session this summer to get Republican priorities approved.

"I can’t call a special session," Patrick said. "I can only force a special session as I did in 2017 for holding back an important bill. If I think the people are not getting their priorities heard, not getting the tax relief they deserve immediately... if I don’t think the surplus is being spent wisely, then I can just hold back a bill and we’ll have a special session. I prefer not to do that, but I have the option like we did in '17."

The uncut interview is in a special episode of Y'allitics, available to download on your preferred platform now, or to stream below.

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