Burrows, Tepper adjourn with House, Perry to deliberate property tax, border bills

House lawmakers adjourned and ended “special session #1″ Tuesday night, less than 24 hours after Gov. Abbott called the Legislature back to address specific issues.
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 11:08 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - After the Texas Senate recessed Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) was on his way home from Austin when he expressed optimism about the Legislature passing property tax reform proposals. He said the Senate’s bill would save taxpayers more than a thousand dollars a year.

At the same time, Texas House members were rejecting the Senate’s proposal, calling it irrelevant to Gov. Abbott’s proclamation for a special session; then, they passed their own bills and adjourned sine die to the sound of cheering and applause.

Since the House of Representatives called the special session over, it cannot take up any other legislation; that means the Senate’s proposals are dead, and its only options are to approve the House proposals or end the session with nothing passed.

Sen. Perry did not seem overly surprised about the development in a second phone call on the road.

“I think it’s more political posturing,” Sen. Perry said. “The House and Senate, there’s a healthy tension there, and on this issue, it’s big dollars, so each side feels fairly passionate about their position, so we’ll just see.”

The House proposal’s only tenet is compressing school property tax rates, which falls in line with Gov. Abbott’s proclamation. It would provide each school district in Texas enough money to reduce its property tax rates by 16 cents per hundred dollars valuation, a $17 billion dollar investment.

Rep. Carl Tepper (R-Lubbock) says it is not a perfect solution, but it is one the House and Senate previously agreed to.

“The Senate wanted the exemption, the House wanted the caps, I’d like to see both,” Rep. Tepper said Tuesday afternoon. “Nevertheless, we’re making some progress using the buydown -- they’re calling it ‘compression’ -- and hopefully that will help our taxpayers a little bit.”

Gov. Abbott endorsed the House bill Monday evening, even taking a snipe at the Senate’s attempt to include raising the homestead exemption.

“The Texas House is the only chamber that passed a property tax cut bill that is germane to the special session that I called to provide Texans with property tax relief,” Gov. Abbott posted on Twitter. “It provides more cuts to property tax rates than any other proposal at this time.”

“I look forward to signing it when it reaches my desk,” he concluded.

It is unclear whether the Senate will seriously deliberate the House’s proposals when it returns from recess Friday, but Sen. Perry said he is confident Lubbock taxpayers will see some form of relief sometime this year.

“We didn’t set $17.6 billion aside to do nothing with it,” he said Tuesday evening. “I think the voters are clear that this is a high priority for them. Even on the Democratic side, property taxes are too high.”

Along with the controversial property tax proposal, the House also sent the Senate its provisions on Gov. Abbott’s border security priority -- raising the minimum prison sentence for human trafficking or operating a “stash house” to ten years in most cases.

“We’ve got a real problem here that I just beg and plead and just wish that the federal government would handle and they’re just not doing it,” Rep. Tepper said. “We’re doing everything we possibly can, legally, as the state of Texas to try to stem this problem.”

“These are real problems, real people,” Sen. Perry said. “Whatever we can do to stem the flow and try and get control of it and get the attention of the feds to deal with it is a positive.”

It is unclear how many special sessions Gov. Abbott will convene or how many issues they will address, but he promised multiple sessions to address what he considers critical items for the state. Rep. Tepper predicted there would be a couple weeks before the next session, but did not speculate on what its assignments could be.

Rep. Tepper and Sen. Perry said they both would like to complete the school finance bill and get teachers pay raises, but Rep. Tepper says he thinks those measures are getting worked on in order to build consensus before taking the bill up.