Property Taxes

Yesterday, the House debated and ultimately passed Senate Bill (SB) 2, which deals with property taxes. I want to provide property tax relief — however, this bill does not do that.

WHAT THE BILL DOES
This measure limits the ability of cities and counties to fund vital services, including public safety – police, firefighters and EMTs. With already strained budgets, local governments will be forced to make harmful budget cuts.

WHAT THE BILL DOES NOT DO
Lower taxes. In fact, when explaining what the bill does, its sponsor repeated several times over that this bill does not lower anyone’s property taxes.”

The main cause of property tax increases is not addressed in this bill.

As you may know, the majority of property tax revenue is dedicated to funding our schools. Each year, that reliance on local property tax revenue increases, while the state share decreases. In 2012, the state paid about 46% of the cost of public schools. In 2019, the state share is just 38%.

StateversusLocalFunding

THE BEST SOLUTION
It’s not tying the hands of local governments through an arbitrary revenue cap or jeopardizing our communities’ safety because of new strains on city and county budgets. The best way to put money in the pockets of homeowners is pretty straightforward — double the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. By doing this, on average, Texas homeowners will save $325 annually.

This solution provides real relief to Texas homeowners struggling with the cost of property taxes, unlike SB 2 as proposed.

If the Legislature really intends to put money back in our pockets, the state should contribute more money for our schools, so property taxpayers don’t have to foot the majority of the bill.

It’s as simple as that.

Historic School Funding

On Wednesday, in a near-unanimous vote (one member voted no), the House passed HB 3 to address the most critical issue facing our state: public education.

It’s a pretty long bill, around 170 pages, so I won’t go through every major point, but here are a handful of highlights:

HB 3 Points

I am particularly proud of the last bullet.

There’s been a lot of talk about teacher pay. Most agree that we need to pay teachers more, but it’s how much and how we do it that that can spark debate.

TT Quote HB 3

To try and bridge a gap between proposals passed in the Senate and those being discussed in the House, I added an amendment to HB 3 to ensure that not only teachers, but librarians, nurses, counselors, educational aides, custodial workers, and other full-time support staff get a raise. This isn’t a one-time pay bump or a one-time bonus check, these employees will get a raise each and every time the Legislature increases basic allotment funding for our schools.

DMN HB 3 Quote

This amendment strikes the perfect balance by giving an across the board raise to teachers and support staff, making pay increases sustainable beyond the next two-year budget cycle, and ensuring that local districts have flexibility on how to use these additional funds for salaries.

In addition to receiving broad bipartisan support, my amendment was endorsed by every major teacher organization in Texas.

AFT on HB 3

That’s huge. And now, we must get it through the Senate and across the finish line.

The teachers, the support staff, and most importantly, the children of our state, deserve nothing less.

Budget

We’re past the half-way mark and there is still much to do to address the critical needs facing our state…and not very much time to do it. On Wednesday, the House will take its first big step to address these needs by debating the two-year, $250 billion state budget (that’s all funds, including federal dollars) – the one bill we are required by the state’s Constitution to pass.

I have said it many times before and it still holds true today: our state budget is a moral document that reflects our priorities as a state, what we care about, and more importantly, who we care about.

Two years ago, the last time we went through this process, I didn’t think the budget did its job in meeting the needs of our state. We didn’t invest enough in our public schools, forcing local taxpayers to foot the majority of the cost. Higher education spending was flat, ignoring the needs of our growing institutions like UT Arlington. Medicaid spending failed to keep up with the state’s caseload, creating a wide and deep hole to fill. And a significant amount of transportation funding was diverted to close other gaps and balance the budget. That’s why I voted against it.

As it’s currently written, this year’s budget does a much better job. Some of the highlights include:

  • $9 billion more for public schools*
  • $50 million for special education grants
  • $173 million to help address behavioral health capacity — including more money for psychiatric care, substance use care and residential treatment
  • $210 million in additional funds for institutions of higher education
  • $866 million for the TEXAS Grants programan increase of $80 million for the biennium, to fund growth; last session, I worked with members of our House Democratic Caucus and appropriators to ensure that a larger percentage of Texas college students would be able to participate in this critical program.

With over 300 amendments up for consideration on Wednesday, there will likely be changes, but as it leaves the House, the key provisions should largely remain the same. It’s important to remember, however, that there are still several critical steps in this process: consideration by the Senate, a House and Senate conference committee to address differences between chambers, and finally, the power of the governor’s pen and his line-item veto.

It is my hope that Texans won’t pay a price as they did two years ago and that as we move forward, our schools get the funds they need and deserve, we invest more in health care and create more paths to college.

We only make these important decisions every two years. We need to make sure they count.

Medicaid Expansion

On Monday, advocates from across the state, including many from North Texas, rallied on the Capitol steps in support of Medicaid expansion.

On Tuesday, in the House Committee on Insurance, I presented State Representative Garnet Coleman’s HB 565, which would expand Medicaid coverage to working adults. It would also add key protections afforded under the Affordable Care Act to state law, including ensuring that Texans with preexisting conditions would remain eligible for healthcare coverage.

Yes, this is an issue that I’ve written about often. For good reason. Texas still has the highest rate and number of uninsured adults (and children) in the nation…and that rate is climbingIt is also an issue that is a priority for the people of House District 101.

Expanding Medicaid should be a no brainer. It would provide coverage for over 1 million Texans basically overnight and draw down billions of federal dollars in the process. Yet, even with an incredible need and funding in place, Texas still remains one of the only 14 states to put politics ahead of the people in its refusal to expand Medicaid.

In addition to Coleman’s measure, other members (all Democrats) have filed expansion bills. At least three of these measures would put Medicaid expansion on the ballot, to let voters — you, me and our neighbors — decide. This approach has been successful in Idaho, Maine, Nebraska and Utah.

Medicaid expansion isn’t the only pressing healthcare item on the agenda this legislative session. Other critical measures include:

Healthcare measures

I support each and every one. All of these measures are critical to the long-term health of our state. We’ll see if our state’s leadership agrees.

Let’s Put Texas Kids First!

Last Thursday, I joined several of my Democratic House colleagues as we unveiled the Texas House Democratic Caucus’ Texas Kids First Plan, which would set aside $14.5 billion to address many of the critical needs facing our public education system.

The nuts-and-bolts of the plan:

  • Put more money into our classrooms by raising per-student funding
  • Give teachers and support staff a much-needed raise, while also helping them with health care premiums and covering the cost of classroom supplies
  • Fund full-day Pre-K
  • Add counselors to campuses to help address mental health needs

All this, while giving Texas homeowners a real property tax break by doubling the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000.  Which, unlike the 2.5% revenue cap being proposed by the governor and lieutenant governor, will keep money in the pockets of homeowners.

Early estimates show that homeowners in Arlington ISD will save $342 per year and Mansfield ISD taxpayers will save around $385 per year under our plan. This will force the state to pick up more of the tab for public education, a share that has been dwindling over the past 10 years. Local taxpayers now pick up the majority of the cost of neighborhood schools.

Here’s a snapshot of property tax savings for homeowners in several North Texas communities:

Tax savings

Yes, adding more money to our classrooms, providing full-day Pre-K and paying teachers and support staff more will cost money. As I mentioned above, an estimated $14.5 billion for the two-year state budget cycle. Our Texas kids and teachers are worth every penny (and more) of this investment.

Texas will have a record $15 billion expected in the Economic Stabilization Fund (aka the Rainy Day Fund) at the end of the budget cycle. This is coupled with a positive economic outlook and the need to revisit outdated tax exemptions that have cost our state billions of dollars.

The money is there, we just need to make our kids, our classrooms, our teachers and the future of our state a priority.

We have the plan to do it.

State of the State

Yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott delivered his “State of the State” speech, highlighting his priorities for the remainder of this legislative session.

As predicted, he spent time talking about the need for public school finance reform, naming this and teacher pay as emergency items.

I agree with him that both need to be addressed immediately and I look forward to learning more about his proposals, because as we all know, the devil is in the details. We need a real fix that puts more money into our classrooms and gives teachers the tools they need to succeed.

As expected, the governor named property tax reform as an emergency item. I agree. Property taxes are too high – but it’s because the state relies on rising property values to shirk its responsibility on public education funding.  School finance reform that mandates the state pay more of the share of public education is the best way to reduce property taxes, not an arbitrary revenue cap that will make it more difficult for Arlington, Grand Prairie and other communities to pay for public safety and other priorities.

As I pointed out in the Democratic Response to the State of the State Address, the Governor’s speech was notable for a key omission.

Governor Abbott failed to mention anything about the fact Texas still leads the nation in the number of and rate of uninsured.  Nearly 5 million Texans are uninsured – that is unacceptable, and it holds our state back and hurts all of us.

We need to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  That would insure more than a million Texans immediately and provide much-needed funding for health care services. 

My Democratic colleagues and I will be working this session to address these and other priorities facing the people of Texas.  I hope the Governor will join us in working for real solutions to these challenges.

Leadership

Last week, members of the Texas House of Representatives, including 17 new Democrats, took the oath of office. We also officially welcomed two new Democratic state senators from North Texas, including my good friend, Beverly Powell.

It was a good day.

In addition to the many new faces, we elected a new Speaker of the House, Dennis Bonnen from Angleton.

I have witnessed Speaker Bonnen in action both on the House floor and as a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, which he chaired. He has a no-nonsense style of leadership and deep respect for the institution he now leads.

During the many conversations my colleagues and I have had with Speaker Bonnen, he has stressed the need for bipartisanship and working together to address the critical issues facing our state, including public education. In his acceptance speech, he reiterated this commitment, as well as not getting “caught up in the things that don’t lead to real results.”

This week, we heard similar assurances from our state’s top two elected officials — Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick — after they were sworn in for their second terms. I was sitting in the audience during their inauguration and I was struck how their tone this year was markedly different from what I heard four years ago.

Gone was Republican red-meat rhetoric on immigration and social issues.  Talk of bathrooms was replaced with promises about classrooms and more money for our teachers. They stressed bipartisanship; a talking point that has been largely absent from these two in the past.

It’s apparent that the last election has made an impact on the agenda for the Legislature — at least at this early stage.  For now, though, Texas leaders are talking about the issues Texans really care about, including more funding for our public schools and higher pay for our teachers.

I hope that these issues, plus increasing access to affordable healthcare, lowering property taxes and fixing problems in our Medicaid managed care system, will be the focus for the next five months.

Time will tell.

Tuesday

On Tuesday, January 8th, the 86TH Legislature begins and I will take the oath of office to continue representing the people of House District 101. It’s an incredible honor to continue serving a community that means so much to Lisa and me.

Our 140-day legislative session provides a short window of time to tackle the critical issues impacting our state with the goal of finding real solutions for all Texans.

To me, this means adding more funding for our local public schools, increasing access to affordable healthcare coverage, improving options for transportation and protecting our state’s most vulnerable children and adults.  It also means rejecting divisive, partisan measures like the bathroom bill.

If you’re in Austin Tuesday (or on any day), swing by and say hello. Our office is in the basement of the main Capitol building, GN.11. Scroll down for a map and more details about Tuesday‘s opening day.

If you can’t make next week, but still want to take a trip to the Capitol, don’t forget that Texas 101 Day is right around the corner! If you’re planning to attend and haven’t had a chance to RSVP, click here. If you need more details, call the Arlington district office at 817-459-2800.

I hope to see you soon.

Join us for opening day of the 86th Legislature.

Map to Office of Representative Turner

Warmest greetings and best wishes

As the year draws to a close and we reflect on our blessings, I want to tell you how grateful we are for your support and friendship. I appreciate how much you care about our state and its future – and how hard you work to make it even better. Thank you.

Lisa and I hope you and your family have a safe, restful and joyful holiday season. We look forward to seeing you in 2019!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays,

Chris & Lisa Turner

Search


Latest News

  • Property Taxes

    Yesterday, the House debated and ultimately passed Senate Bill (SB) 2, which deals with property taxes. I want to provid

    Read More
  • Car Seat Safety

    Read More
  • Historic School Funding

    On Wednesday, in a near-unanimous vote (

    Read More
  • Budget

    We’re past the half-way mark and there is still much to do to address the critical needs facing our state…and not very m

    Read More

Recent Posts

Upcoming Events