Key issues that need to be addressed in special session

Lubbock Avalanche Journal

I am proud of our governor for calling for us back to Austin to complete some unfinished work. He has done the right thing, which is evident by every liberal and anti-taxpayer special interest group attacking him for making the call. They are wrong, and I expect that we can get the following done within the 30 days:

1. Property tax reform: The property tax is a local tax (Texas abolished the state property tax in 1982). Even though it’s a local tax, the state has the responsibility for setting the process and procedure by which local entities collect it.

Taxpayers are frustrated when they hear that their property tax rate stayed the same, but their tax liability went up and with no explanation of where the extra money went. Taxpayers deserve more transparency. They deserve to know which local taxing entity got what extra money. They need this information to have more intelligent conversations with their mayor and county commissioners about what the extra money was needed for. During the special session, I will support legislation that provides this information to taxpayers.

Taxpayers also deserve to have more control over their property taxes. Texas law currently provides that if a local taxing entity raises property taxes beyond a certain percentage (the “rollback rate”), then an election will occur to ratify or reject that increase. When originally implemented, the rollback rate was 5 percent; however, because of the massive inflation during the Carter administration, it was then increased to 8 percent. Numerous attempts have been made to lower it back to 5 percent. The closest attempt was in 2005, when a bill passed both chambers with strong bipartisan support (the bill died before reaching the governor’s desk). That bill had several amendments to address the concerns of cities and counties, including keeping smaller taxing units at the current rollback rate. I am certain that we can find a solution in the special session that works for both taxpayers and smaller counties and cities.

2. ASATR funding: The most important issue we will address during the special session for District 83 is helping stabilize schools that are dependent on Additional State Aide for Tax Reduction. Those are funds that go to certain schools (many in rural Texas) in addition to the basic funds allotted. These have been in place since 2006 and will statutorily expire unless extended by this Legislature. There is significant opposition to extending these funds from special interest groups that disagree with ASATR.

Many of us fought hard to extend ASATR during the regular session; however, an agreement was not reached before time ran out. During the special session, I will continue to work for an extension of ASATR; and, the elimination of the small-school adjustment.

3. Pro-life initiatives: During the regular session, we accomplished many pro-life initiatives such as ending dismemberment abortion (where the child is killed in utero by being torn limb from limb while his or her heart is still beating). During the special session, I look forward to working with my colleagues to accomplish each of the four measures Gov. Abbott has called for. The measures include: (1) preventing Texans from being forced to fund the elective abortions of others through insurance; (2) stopping cities and counties from funneling tax dollars to the profit-driven abortion industry; (3) requiring patient or surrogate consent before a DNR order is placed on a patient; and, (4) reforming the reporting requirements of abortion and abortion complications.

While I travel the district, I often hear from constituents that they are concerned about property taxes, the funding of schools and protection of life. I look forward to representing these concerns in Austin during this special session.

Dustin Burrows represents House District 83 in the Texas Legislature. He serves on the Agriculture and Livestock Committee, the Investments and Financial Services Committee and the Texas House Republican Caucus Policy Committee.

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