Legislative priorities laid out for session
By Rep. Trent Ashby
As part of School Board Appreciation Month, I invite parents, teachers, and students to join me in recognizing our local School Board Members who have dedicated their time to serve our Texas students and communities.
With more than 5 million students throughout the State of Texas, these local leaders deserve our gratitude for their leadership and devoted service on behalf of our school districts, administrators, teachers, and students.
The School Board Appreciation theme for 2023 is “Forward, Together,” which, in my opinion, perfectly encapsulates our shared commitment to the success of our public schools and a brighter future for Texas students.
In my most recent column, I discussed the Comptroller’s announcement of the Biennial Revenue Estimate, which outlines funds available for the legislature over the next two years.
Against that backdrop, on Jan. 18, leadership in both the House and Senate filed a preliminary base budget, which will serve as a starting point for the legislature to begin budget negotiations. House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1, reflect the priorities of each chamber and will be debated throughout the session to arrive at a final budget for the 2024-2025 biennium.
While the priorities for each chamber are reflected in the fine print of their respective proposals, there a quite a few similarities. Both chambers have proposed to spend roughly $130 billion in general revenue over the upcoming biennium, which is well below the constitutional spending cap.
Without wading too deep into budget minutia, I want to highlight some of the priorities that are clearly defined in each of the filed budget proposals.
For example, both versions dedicate $15 billion for property tax relief, including an additional $3 billion to buy down local school and property tax rates. This is welcome news, as skyrocketing appraisal values combined with record levels of inflation have shouldered too many Texans with an exorbitant property tax bill.
I’m pleased to see that both chambers are prioritizing property tax relief in their base proposals, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find additional solutions to help provide meaningful relief to Texas property owners.
I’m also pleased to report that House Bill 1 makes significant investments in public safety and criminal justice by dedicating over $17 billion to support the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, correctional officers, rural law enforcement, and bolstered border security efforts. I applaud the Texas House for prioritizing the brave men and women who help keep our communities safe.
Additionally, both chambers are proposing to make strategic investments in public education. As school districts across the state struggle with teacher shortages, learning loss, and countless other challenges that have arisen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, both chambers’ proposals feature a $36 billion investment to help address these challenges.
These resources will be used to increase teacher incentives, raise the basic allotment, enhance technological and instructional materials, and importantly, strengthen our school safety initiatives. Our public school classrooms are the bedrock of our communities, and ensuring our educators and students have the resources necessary to provide a quality learning environment is vital to the success of our children and the future of Texas.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.
Trent Ashby represents District 9, which includes Trinity County, in the Texas Legislature.
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