The Texas Legislature has overwhelmingly approved school funding and property tax reform legislation, getting the two key priorities of the current session poised to be sent to the governor's desk as the 2019 session is set to adjourn Monday night, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The property tax legislation, which was strongly opposed by San Antonio and other major cities lowers, the 'rollback rate' for local government revenue increases to 3.5% from the current 8%.. That means if a city or county wants to raise the tax rate by more than that, for any reason, the voters would first have to approve it at an election.
San Antonio, which is the second fastest growing big city in the USA, says the restrictions will tie its hands when it comes to planning for the future, especially when it comes to beefing up public safety forces ahead of te inevitable increase in demand.
But 'tax hawks' on the Republican side are critical of the bill as well, pointing out that, while it limits future tax increases, it nothing to actually cut taxes.
"For too long, Texans have seen their property taxes skyrocket as they are reduced to tenants on their own land, " Abbott said.. He is expected to sign the legislation.
The companion education funding bill does include a mechanism to lower property taxes, by increasing state funding for public schools.
The tax cut is expected to reduce tax rates by 8 cents per hundred dollar valuation in 2020, up to 13 cents in 2021.
The state will increase it's share of funding for public schools by $5.1 billion using available state oil and gas revenue, and also sets up a commission to look into funding which would be more reliable through the long term, which could include higher sales or consumption taxes, the so called 'tax swap' which was proposed by Abbott, but universally flopped in the Legislature.
The education funding measure, unlike a proposal floated in the State Senate, does not mandate across-the-board pay raises for teachers, instead opting to deliver the money to the individual ISD's, with instructions to prioritize pay raises not only for teachers, but also to librarians, counselors, and other full-time school employees.
The bill also provides funding to Pre-K programs,as well as increased funding for bilingual education, and for education for special needs students.
The passage of the two bills is a victory for legislative leaders, and is expected to make a special session, which have become a fixture of Legislative session over the past several years, less likely in 2019.