Legislative Line – This Week at the Texas Capitol: State of the State, Gov. Abbott’s Budget Proposal, Significant Legislation
Report from TAD’s government relations team at the Texas Capitol
Feb. 3, 2017
State of the State:
On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott delivered his State of the State message to a joint session of the Senate and House. He outlined his emergency items and priorities for the 85th legislative session including four emergency items: reforming Child Protective Services, banning sanctuary cities, implementing meaningful ethics reforms and passing a resolution calling for a Convention of States.
Additionally, he mentioned handful of legislative priorities, including illegal immigration and border security; policies to implement more police protections; keeping the federal government in check; a fully-funded Texas Enterprise Fund; prolife initiatives and protecting the unborn; high quality pre-k, school choice and broadband connectivity; franchise tax reduction and property tax reform; and limitations on abusive hail-storm litigation. Abbott also called for state agencies to institute an immediate hiring freeze through the end of August. This should free up about $200 million in the current budget.
Gov. Abbott’s Budget Proposal:
Coinciding with his State of the State address, Abbott released his budget for the 2018-19 biennium. Highlights of the governor’s budget:
- Adds $500 million for reforming Child Protective Services (CPS);
- Maintains $800 million in funding for border security;
- Fully funds $5 billion in additional road construction without new taxes, fees, debt, or tolls;
- Fully funds optional, high-quality Pre-K programs;
- Fully funds job creation programs like the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF);
- Fully funds the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI);
- Fully funds disaster-relief programs;
- Cuts taxes on employers (franchise tax) by another $250 million; and
- Maintains funding for development grants that support Texas military bases.
On Tuesday, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, filed SB 669, which would reform the property tax appraisal process. Chairman Nelson said, “This legislation will strengthen the rights of taxpayers and make the appraisal process fair, accountable and more transparent.” SB 669 would amend the Tax Code to:
- Increase education requirements for Appraisal Review Board (ARB) members and arbitrators and require the Comptroller to establish and supervise a training program for arbitrators;
- Provide additional ways for taxpayers to provide feedback of their experience with the ARB;
- Establish term limits for ARB members in larger counties;
Allow ARB members to choose the chairman instead of the appraisal district board of directors;
- Require appraisal districts to provide taxpayers any evidence to be used at a hearing and prohibit its use if not delivered to the taxpayer;
- Prohibit ARBs from raising a property’s appraised value above the amount in the notification and require that protest hearing orders be issued within 15 days; and
- Allow taxpayers’ agents to postpone a hearing if appraisal districts fail to comply with law, require related hearings be held consecutively, and require ARBs provide its recommended value to taxpayers at the end of a hearing.