Key Items Coming up at the Capitol in Austin This Week

The House Pensions Committee hears an initial round of testimony on February 27 on the Teacher Retirement System. This House committee has a key role in the design and proper funding of school employees’ health care and protection of their pensions.

On February 28, SB 17 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), a bill to phase out the franchise tax, will get a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. It’s a dubious idea to kill a major tax that Texas depends on to help fund public education. The bill says that any projected revenue growth from biennium to biennium greater than 5 percent must be used to replace and thereby reduce the franchise tax until the tax rate reaches zero. The effect would be to give a priority claim on new revenue to the policy goal of business-tax cuts rather addressing the unmet needs of the students in our public schools.

Also on February 28, the House Public Education Committee meets to take expert testimony on fixing the state system of school finance. Committee chair Dan Huberty (R-Houston) says the House wants to move on a reform plan quickly. The House budget draft would increase school funding by $1.5 billion if a new school-finance bill passes that cuts reliance on local property-tax revenue from wealthier districts, improves equity for lower-wealth districts, and increases basic per-pupil funding.