The chairmen of the two committees charged with crafting the Senate's plan for school finance reform held a press conference today to give an update on the progress of the two relevant bills. The Committee Substitute to House Bill 2 (CSHB 2), which would change the school finance system and create a state property tax, is still being considered by the Senate Education Committee. The Senate Finance Committee is still crafting the CSHB 3, which addresses broadening the business tax and other means for increasing revenue for public education.
Senator Steve Ogden, Chair of the Finance Committee, addressed some of the potential provisions that could be put into CSHB 3. The bill will broaden the franchise tax to include all businesses in Texas. Ogden says the tax will need to raise $4.5 billion to $5.5 billion a year to cover the property tax cut proposed by CSHB 2. The bill might also make concessions to the poorest Texans, by including a 40 percent sales tax reduction for holders of the Lone Star Card, which would impact about 400,000 people in the state.
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said he wants CSHB 3 to help the poor and the economy alike. "We're very focused in this bill on protecting the poorest in our society, giving benefits, creating more jobs, and making sure our economy continues to grow," said Dewhurst. The Finance Committee will continue to work on the provisions of CSHB 3 over the weekend, and Ogden said he intends to lay out the bill in committee on Monday. "The one issue that I want to re-emphasize is that we're going to produce a plan that balances, and that is what I would say is a competent plan that will work," said Ogden.
The Senate Education Committee is close to voting out CSHB 2, according to Committee Chair Florence Shapiro. The committee spent the day considering 24 amendments to the bill, most of which are technical changes or corrections. Shapiro had intended to vote out the bill today, but she must await the Legislative Budget Board's financial assessment of the new amendments to ensure there are no new provisions that could throw off the fiscal balance. Because of this, Shapiro said the bill will likely come out of committee Friday. Dewhurst added that he intends to vote both CSHB 2 and CSHB 3 out of the Senate by the end of next week.
The Senate will reconvene Friday, April 29, at 9:30 a.m.