AUSTIN, TEXAS — The 86th Texas Legislature gavels into session at noon on Wednesday and reducing property taxes along with school finance reform appear paramount on the eve of the session.
Tuesday afternoon, after gaveling into session, The House of Representatives is poised to elect state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, as Speaker, to replace Joe Straus who retired.
But more than a change of leadership, this session will likely be far different than last when a social war over the so-called bathroom bill seemed to dominate.
Buying down the unsustainable rising taxes that property owners pays appears to have bipartisan support this year.
One of the most discussed ideas calls for lawmakers to spend more state money on education – thereby reducing the share homeowners are required to pay.
“My favorite idea is buying it down because it does two things it relieves – it increases the state’s share of school funding, but the other thing that’s going to do is it’s going to eliminate Robin Hood,” said incoming state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-Collin County.
Robin Hood, the state’s school finance system, requires school districts with high property values like Plano, Dallas and many others, to give a portion of that money back to the state to benefit poorer school districts. How to fix it remains an issue.
Neither property taxes nor school finance reform are lightning rod controversial issues like last session.
Two years ago, lawmakers tried to limit how much municipalities could raise taxes without calling for a special election. That idea failed in both the general and special session.
“I think you’ll see multiple pieces of legislation. Property taxes is an issue in my district. It’s an issue in [state Sen. Royce West’s] district. It’s a bipartisan issue that we both agree needs to be fixed,” said state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, on WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics on Sunday. “I think what we clearly have seen people can’t handle the growing escalation of property taxes. It’s growing at a much higher rate than population and inflation.”
“The question is, is the state willing to put more general revenue – state funding – into our school systems to buy down those property tax rates,” said state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, on WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics.
That’s the question facing lawmakers – how much relief will they give homeowners?
The Texas House and Senate gavel into session at noon on Tuesday. The legislative session lasts 140 days.