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Newsletter: Nearing the End of a Productive Session

After five very productive months, the Texas House will end this year’s legislative session on Monday. I’m looking forward to spending more time in San Antonio and talking about the House’s work.

But it isn’t Monday yet, and that work isn’t quite finished. In the next couple of days, the House and Senate will put the finishing touches on some issues that matter a great deal to our community and our state. I’m very confident that, when Monday arrives, we will bring this session to a successful close.

 

Please keep an eye on joestraus.org for updates about the end of the session. In the meantime, here are some of the issues that we will wrap up in the days ahead:

Fiscal Discipline: The House and Senate will vote on House Bill 1, a two-year state budget that is balanced and grows less than 2 percent per year. That’s well beneath projected growth in population and inflation, it’s beneath our Constitutional spending limit, and it leaves our Rainy Day Fund untouched. At the same time, this bill provides additional resources for public education, higher education, transportation, mental health services and border security.

Budget Transparency: One of the House’s highest priorities is making the state budget more transparent and straightforward by using fees that the state collects for their intended purpose. For example, the state has long collected a fee on drunk drivers to help pay for trauma care, but that money has instead been used to justify spending on other programs. The House insisted that our budget use that money — $195 million — for trauma care, which will provide needed resources to facilities that save lives across the state. House Bills 6 and 7 will ensure that additional fees are used for their intended purpose as well.

Public Education: In addition to the per-student funding increase in the budget, we are working to pass House Bill 2804, which would diminish the role of standardized testing in the way the state evaluates schools. Tests would be part of an accountability formula that would include other measures of academic growth, as well as student and community engagement. Meanwhile, House Bill 4, which provides financial incentives for districts to strengthen pre-kindergarten programs, was signed into law by Governor Abbott on Thursday.

Transportation: House Bill 1 delivers on a key House priority by using all of the money in the State Highway Fund for transportation, instead of sending some of those dollars to other programs. The House and Senate have also agreed to propose a Constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 5, that would dedicate at least $2.5 billion for transportation every two years. This is another step toward addressing the transportation challenges presented by rapid growth in our population.

Tax Relief: The House worked with the Senate and Governor Abbott to agree to nearly $4 billion in tax relief. House Bill 32 will reduce the business margins tax by 25 percent across the board. The House also passed Senate Joint Resolution 1, a proposed Constitutional amendment to increase the statewide homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000, which will help slow the growth of property taxes imposed by local governments.

We are close to reaching a resolution on many other issues and ending this session on a very productive note. I am proud of the way that the House has focused on core priorities and worked to see that Texas remains a national leader in job creation and economic opportunity, and I look forward to visiting with you more about our work in the weeks to come. If you have questions about how we have addressed a particular issue or concern, please send me a note at joe@joestraus.org.