Texas’ 86th Legislature convenes today in Austin.
And as we kick off another lawmaking session, it’s our hope that senators and representatives will tackle the real, pressing issues facing our state right now. Texans face a lot of problems, from broken tax laws to higher healthcare costs. We need a legislative body that is focused on addressing those issues, not whatever the latest hot-button nonsense issue making the outrage rounds on Facebook happens to be. (We’re looking at you there, Dan Patrick.)
We need tax reform. We need the state to start stepping up and funding its share of the burden instead of hamstringing already cash-strapped cities with property tax caps while also handing out unfunded mandates left and right. We need reform that’s not just arbitrary limits on tax increases, because a one-size-fits-all limit will not work for every community. If our local leaders raise our taxes too much for our liking, let us decide for ourselves. That’s what elections are for.
We need school finance reform that’s more than just tapping into the Rainy Day Fund. The biggest burden on local taxpayers is schools, and that’s entirely because the state has abrogated its funding responsibilities over the past decade. When you cut millions, if not billions, of state funding to schools and tell districts to make up the funds within their own budget, that means our students suffer. We lose valuable teachers and support staff. We’re getting to a point where it’s not just excess fat that’s getting cut — its tangible programs that our students need to succeed.
We need to address failures in our healthcare systems and a growing number of Texans who can’t afford it. Rural hospitals throughout the state are closing, leaving residents without options. Our state’s maternal mortality rate is alarming. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was recently ruled unconstitutional, which means we need to start looking at how we can ensure all Texans have health insurance that they can afford. We need to fix and adequately fund medical and social programs serving children and disabled adults.
We remain hopeful ahead of the new session. We’re optimistic that our area lawmakers share these goals. Dennis Bonnen, who is expected to be our new Speaker of the House, told reporters in Tyler last month his top issues were school finance and property tax reform.
Our own Rep. Chris Padde, R-Marshall, echoed similar statements to us at the end of last month:
“Those issues, again, directly affect local property taxpayers in the fact that they continue to be concerned, as they should be, with rising local property taxes; and so we have to find a way to fix our school finance system and that will result ultimately — not only in adequately funding public education in the state, but it also can result to some true property tax reform that can ultimately result in property tax relief, meaning folks pay less school taxes than they do today. I think everyone wants that.”
Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, told The Texas Tribune recently he expects this session to “be more of a blocking and tackling session.”
“What I’m looking to do is pass legislation that really affects folks in ways that they can measure it. And we need measurable tax relief.”
We couldn’t agree more.