DEWHURST ADDRESSES LAST OBSTACLES TO HOUSE BILLS ONE AND FIVE
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst gave an update today on the progress of the last two bills that make up the five bill tax reform package that has been the focus of this special session. With only one week left in the session, Dewhurst addressed concerns that time is running out for property tax reform. "We've still got a few details to work out on [HB] 1, and we're pulling our votes together on [HB] 5, so we've got a lot of work to do over the next 24 to 48 hours," he said. "But I think we're all optimistic and I think everyone in the Senate wants to make sure this is a successful session and that we're not only able to solve the lawsuit but lower local school property taxes and improve public education."
He identified the main obstacles to HB1 as an amendment added to the bill in committee Friday by Senators Duncan and Staples. They say that amendment would guarantee equity for the first four cents of local enrichment at 96 percent, and would nearly eliminate the state's school revenue recapture for those four cents.
Dewhurst said that part of the problem is determining how the cost, about $400 million per year, of that equalization will affect the budget, and also if districts should have access to three or four cents of local enrichment. He added that he is meeting with members of both sides of the issue to come to a compromise, and he plans to bring the bill to the floor Tuesday or Wednesday.
The major issue facing HB 5, which would raise the tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack, is how to spend the revenue raised by the tax. Some Senators want that money to go into Health and Human Services, as smoking is essentially a public health issue, while others want the money going to lowering school property tax rates.
The Senate approved the conference committee report on HB 4 today, sending the bill to the Governor's desk. This bill would require motor vehicle purchasers to pay at least 80 percent of the "blue book" value of a used car. The conference committee stripped out an amendment that would have mandated that insurance companies pay a similar value for a totaled car.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, May 9, at 2 p.m.