San Angelo Live
By: Joe Hyde
SAN ANGELO, TX — The Austin-based non-profit state news website Texas Tribune held a lunch on the Howard College campus at noon today. The main event during the luncheon was a political discussion with Texas Tribune’s publisher Evan Smith and two west Texas state representatives.
Rep Drew Darby of District 72 and Dustin Burrows of Lubbock’s District 83 engaged in a spirited discussion about issues facing the legislature.
Smith began the discussion explaining that the Texas state budget is several billion short. “What are you going to cut?” he asked.
Burrows surprised the audience saying the Texas House budget addresses everything on his plate. “The priorities for my district are funded,” he said. Darby provided color, explaining that the House bill is $5 billion more than the Senate’s.
The legislature meets every two years, in odd years, and this session has just begun, so the representatives have not started “pulling the weeds from the garden,” as Burrows put it.
Smith was quick on his feet, and spoke quickly as the trio explored various issues facing Texas and how those issues match west Texas, or more rural priorities.
Among the issues discussed were budget, foster care, CPS funding, public school funding, school choice, border security, school accountability ratings (the “A through F” grading system of public school campuses), and transgender bathrooms.
Smith saved the transgender issue for last.
Attending the event were who’s who of San Angelo’s political class, including mayoral candidate Brenda Gunter who asked the first question. Last session, the legislature cut property taxes. “Why do citizens here feel like their taxes are still going up?” she asked.
Darby explained the increase in the amount of the statewide Homestead Exemption was only expected to put $100 into the pocket of every Texas family, so the impact was nil on citizens. But, he said, “It dug a hole for us to fill.” Darby said now the legislature needs to find a revenue source or spending cut to fill in for the lost revenue.
Even so, both Darby and Burrows were in favor of the increased Homestead Exemption.