Lawmakers will be back in session beginning January 8, 2019, and eExtraNews will be covering many topics rural Texans are interested in.
Currently, 579 bills have been pre-filed. Pre-filing gives bills a stronger chance of passing, but of course, nothing is guaranteed and Texans can expect plenty more to be filed once the session begins.
Money, Money and More Money
Texas has a lot of debt and a lot in the bank. Some considerations this year will be the Medicaid shortfall which is said to be $2 to $2.5 billion. Adding to the list is Hurricane Harvey costs, which conservatives estimate at about $2 billion. The Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF also known as The Rainy Day Fund) is up $11 billion. These are just a few money breakers the legislature will have to tackle in 2019. Texas’ debt is the second highest in the U.S., at $53 Billion (2017, up from $43.5 Billion in 2016). This breaks down to more than $1,800 per Texan.
Education & Property Taxes Oh My
School finances will also be a priority of conversation among lawmakers as it is every year. In the last election, Texas property owners made it very clear to their representatives that they want lower property taxes. Keep in mind the way the state pays for education is with a combination of local property taxes, state and federal funding. The only way to lower property taxes sadly is to cut public education funding or find money elsewhere to offset the property tax cuts.
In the state’s 2019 fiscal year 55% of school financing is coming from the local share, while the state’s share is expected to be around 35% and the rest will come from the federal government. It is estimated it will take a $5.7 billion increase in annual state spending to rebalance state and local shares of public education. If they manage to pull it off it will be them back where they were in 2008 with each covering 45% of the load.
There is no doubt the Ledge has its work cut out for them and when the session comes to an end in May, lawmakers want to be able to make their voters happy with lower property taxes. But at the end of the day, someone has to pay for all of this stuff.
Follow our coverage January 8 through May 27, 2019.
Sources: Legislature Reference Library of Texas, Texas Legislature Sessions