State of Wise: Fallon, King support governor’s focus

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, February 9, 2019

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott delivered his State of the State address this week and designated several emergency items for legislators to immediately start addressing.

School finance and property tax reform topped the list, along with teacher pay, school safety, mental health and disaster response in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Abbott’s push to address school finance fell in line with the talk at the start of the 86th Legislature, when he joined Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen outlining their dedication to finding a longterm solution.

District 30 Senator Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) is on the education committee, which started informational meetings this week. Fallon echoed the governor’s sentiments on fixing school finance.

“This session there is a real focus on education. It’s not a question of if we’ll add money, but how much,” Fallon said.

He anticipates the legislature adding $3 to $5 billion to financing school, pulled from a growing “rainy-day fund.”

Abbott also pledged property tax reform. Both chambers have presented plans to limit property tax revenue growth at 2.5 percent. The cap for entities with revenues over $15 million would force them to ask for an election to go above the 2.5 percent. New properties added to the tax rolls would not be counted toward the 2.5 percent.

Fallon and District 61 Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) both support the legislation.

“There’s a very good chance it passes,” King said. “The governor, lieutenant governor and speaker word for word rolled out the same bills. I can’t recall a time in which they were so completely together on an issue.”

King said he’s heard mixed reactions to the proposals.

“The citizens are excited for property tax relief. Property taxes are such a burden on homeowners and businesses,” King said. “The reaction has been mixed from community leaders and officials. Some say they can accept [the 2.5 percent] and work with the limits.”

He added that the $15 million threshold protects smaller cities.

Fallon said the state has to rein in property taxes, pointing that 8 to 10 percent hikes are ahead of general inflation of 3 to 4 percent.

“The 2.5 percent does not cut future growth,” Fallon said.

He added that it does allow cities to go above the 2.5 percent with citizen approval.

“I wouldn’t be in favor of it, if it was a hard 2.5 percent,” Fallon said. “It’s if you go over the 2.5, you have to have an election and the people that live there get to decide.”

He said he may look to propose that the state picks up the cost for the election, if a city passes a tax-hike proposition.

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