After a hurried meeting of the Senate Education Committee Tuesday, a school finance bill got the green light, and was put on a fast track for a vote in the full chamber.
Julie Chang covers education for the Austin American-Statesman. She says the bill now headed for the Senate floor differs in several ways from HB 3, which the House passed last week.
“The Senate version of House Bill 3 does deliver a more robust property tax relief provision, in the sense that it does drop tax rates a lot more than the House’s version,” Chang says.
The Senate bill has three property tax-related components: a property tax cut of at least 15 cents over the next two years, a cap on how much property tax revenue school districts can collect per year and an increase of about $15,000 to the homestead exemption.
The Senate bill keeps the $5,000 teacher and librarian pay raise it proposed earlier in the session. The House bill included a smaller raise that would have applied to teachers as well as to other school district employees.
Chang says lawmakers will eventually have to reconcile the two pay-raise plans.
“The big hurdle right now is that we’ve got to get this bill through a Senate vote on Friday,” Chang says.
The next step is for the House to take up the bill, but it’s unlikely it will pass there. So, most likely, the two chambers would create a conference committee to resolve the differences between the bills.
Some Senate Republicans object to the pace at which the education funding bill is being considered, but the chamber’s leadership is mindful of the approaching end of the regular legislative session and rules governing deadlines for passing bills.
“Tax revenue bills have to originate in the House, and so the House is working on a very short timeline,” Chang says. “It’s important for the Senate committee and the Senate to move forward.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.