Property tax relief, gas plants, and border to gain from $27B surplus
By Maggie Q. Thompson, 10:43AM, Mon. Dec. 5, 2022
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unveiled a list of 21 priorities for the 88th Texas Legislature last week at the Capitol, beginning the mad dash to get marquee GOP items into bills that end up on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk this spring.
Patrick – who presides over the Texas Senate, is in charge of its agenda, and co-chairs the Legislative Budget Board, which leads on how the state should spend its money – is poised to focus on property tax relief, the state’s power grid, and spending lots of tax dollars on Abbott’s already massively expensive and controversial border operation. Law enforcement, restoring the Alamo, investment in mental health facilities, and ensuring schoolkids don’t have to learn about race are also high on the list for Patrick.
Texas has a huge $27 billion budget surplus – so far – as we head into the next legislative session, so when it comes to budget priorities, which Patrick has great sway over, he pointed to lowering property taxes. (That’s really the Legislature’s No. 1 priority in any session.) Patrick wants to raise the homestead exemption – the amount free from taxation on a primary residence – from $40,000 to $60,000 or $65,000 (which would cost the state about $2 billion.)
His grid proposals are anchored in legislation to bring more natural gas plants, which he says is the here-and-now fix while over the long term, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the Public Utility Commission of Texas are redesigning the power market. (Democrats, as an alternative, have been pushing for investment in battery storage and smart-grid technology, tying into the national grids serving the Eastern and Western U.S., and increasing clean energy production.)
Pouring more money into Abbott’s Operation Lone Star to increase the military and law enforcement presence at the border, which is seeing a historic spike in crossings, is fine by Patrick, who said “We have to keep that up, until we get a new president in the White House who hopefully will make border security No. 1 in 2024.” (So far, it’s also cost more than $2 billion.) Patrick also positioned himself as pro-scholarships for future STEM teachers and nurses, which will strike most as palatable. Conversely, his support of a “Parent’s Bill of Rights,” which Abbott has also called for, would help parents who don’t want race or gender discussed in schools to have their way.
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