Property tax cuts and expanded school vouchers will be fast tracked for consideration by Texas lawmakers after Gov. Greg Abbott included them in a list of emergency items for the legislative session.
In his Thursday evening State of the State address, the Republican governor also said he will soon announce a $100 billion transportation infrastructure plan for the state’s “booming economy and growing population.”
Abbott, who won a third term as governor in November, said “property taxes are suffocating Texans,” noting biennial budget bills introduced in the House and Senate call for using the state’s record surplus to provide $15 billion in cuts.
“That money belongs to the taxpayers,” he said. “We should return it to you with the largest property tax cut in the history of Texas.”
Abbott’s plan to tackle high property taxes includes requiring a two-thirds majority vote by local governments to approve debt and by voters for bonds not on November ballots.
Local bond referendums in Texas are limited to May and November election dates and ballots in both months last year featured billions of dollars of school bonds as districts sought funding to accommodate growing student enrollment and replace and rehab aging facilities.
As for school choice, the governor said, while the state already has education savings accounts for special needs students, “it’s time to provide every parent with the ability to choose the best education option for their child.”
“To be clear, under this school choice program, all public schools will be fully funded for every student,” he said. “This is so vital to the future of our state that I am making education freedom an emergency item this session.”
Property tax relief and school choice also appeared on a list of priority bills announced Monday by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who heads the Senate.
Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan tweeted a statement saying the governor’s address included “many great ideas for achieving the goal we all share at the Texas Legislature: making our state a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”
Texas would join several other states in embracing more public funding for students not attending public or charter schools.
In Oklahoma, Republican House Speaker Charles McCall unveiled a proposal Thursday to provide up to $5,000 in annual tax credits per student enrolled in private schools and up to $2,500 for each home schooled student, while increasing public school funding by $500 million.
Last week, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders proposed a K-12 education plan that includes phased-in school choice for all students by the 2025-26 school year.
Meanwhile, Arizona’s new Democratic governor Katie Hobbs wants to repeal a universal voucher program launched last year that has proven to be costlier than expected.