SENATE APPROVES $15 BILLION IN PROPERTY TAX CUTS
(AUSTIN) — Texans would see the largest property tax cut in history under a set of bills approved unanimously by the Senate Wednesday. SB 3, by Houston Senator Paul Bettencourt, would raise the homestead exemption, letting homeowners write off $75,000 of property value before assessments, which he says will take $800 off the average property tax bill in Texas. "This is off-the-chart, incredible property tax relief for millions of Texas homeowners," said Bettencourt. For homeowners aged 65 or older, he added, savings could top $1000 as the bill triples the special exemption the state provides for senior citizens, allowing them to exempt a total of $100,000 of their home's value. Should it pass the legislature, it must still be approved by voters in November, but Bettencourt said he expects the proposal to pass with more than 90 percent of voter approval. The bill is retroactive to this year, so if voters approve it, homeowners could expect to see these savings on their next property tax bill. The Senate also approved a bill that would increase the business personal property tax exemption to 20 percent and grant tax credits that would cover 20 percent of the small business inventory tax. SB 5, by Flower Mound Senator Tan Parker, would save small businesses $1.5 billion in taxes.
Houston Senator Paul Bettencourt says his bill will cut the average property tax bill by $800.
In committee Wednesday, the Education Committee took up and considered two major priorities of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. The first, SB 9 by Conroe Senator and committee chair Brandon Creighton, is a sweeping measure aimed at helping public school teachers. "Teachers are over-burdened and not feeling valued," said Creighton. "This has led to many of them leaving the profession." The bill would include an across-the-board annual raise of $2,000 for all teachers, and $4,000 dollars for teachers in rural districts. Rural teachers lag behind their peers in salary rates, and often make tens of thousands of dollars less than the state average of $59,000, said Creighton. The bill would also expand the performance-based Teacher Incentive Allotment that allows districts to identify their best teachers and pay them more.
Salary concerns aren't the number one reason that 77 percent of Texas teachers have contemplated leaving the profession in the last two years, said Creighton. Rather, safety in the classroom and lack of support top the list. To improve support, the bill would create a teacher residency program, where college students who plan to become teachers can work alongside mentor teachers in the classroom for a year before they graduate. To improve discipline, the bill would make it easier to remove disruptive or threatening students from the classroom, and would require written consent from a teacher before the student could be returned to class. "Our goal is to make sure teachers have a say in the plan that's established for the disruptive or dangerous student that is revolving in and out of the classroom and creating the lack of a learning environment," said Creighton. The bill will also allow teachers with young children to enroll them at existing pre-K programs on campuses where they teach.
Creighton next offered SB 8, which he says will give parents control over their children's education through school choice. "SB 8 places parents, not government, squarely at the center of their communities and the decisions that are made on behalf of their children and their children's education," he said. Students could freely transfer between any open enrollment school, provided the receiving school has the capacity. It would also create Education Savings Accounts of up to $8,000 to help pay for fees and tuition for parents who want to put their kids in a private school. Rural districts with less than 20,000 students would get an allotment of $10,000 per year for two years for any students that leave the system to attend a private school through the ESA program. The bill also allows for parental reviews of instructional materials and would ban instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity at all grade levels.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, March 23 at 11 a.m.