By Matt Hollis
Texas House Rep. Mayes Middleton and Texas Senator Brandon Creighton spoke of their successes and future hopes, saying there much was accomplished in Austin during the 86th Texas Legislative session.
“With Texas legislators, we have to have our priorities accomplished or push them to the top and get to work on them quickly,” Creighton said at Tuesday’s West Chambers County Chamber of Commerce lunch. “We are on the clock, once it runs out, we have to come home and explain it to our constituents.”
Both Creighton and Middleton spoke about Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 3, which provided property tax relief and school finance reform.
“On the property tax front, for the first time in four decades, we have reform,” Middleton said. “It’s been a long time. Number one was creating $5 billion of property tax relief and placing a 2.5 percent hard cap on school maintenance and operation taxes. What that means is your valuation plus your tax, the full M&O, which is the largest portion of your tax bill, cannot exceed a 2.5 percent growth per year. It also means the state has to contribute more.”
The bill also reduces the rollback rate to 3.5 percent for cities and counties.
“It been going on for many, many years that the tax rate stays the same and valuations skyrocket,” Middleton said. “Now, valuation and the tax rate were finally looked at together.”
Middleton said HB3 was an outstanding success. It costs $11.3 billion and provides $5.1 billion not only for property tax relief but also for pay raises for teachers, school nurses, counselors, librarians and staff in school districts in Texas.
Middleton said thanks to the efforts in the Texas Senate and House voters will have the chance to prevent a state income tax once and for all this November.
“Right now, we have very little protection from (a state income tax),” Middleton said. “A simple majority can overrule it. In November, there will be a constitutional ban on the ballot. If passed, we are pretty darn sure that we will never have a state income tax in Texas.”
Middleton expressed disappointment that House Bill 281 did not pass.
“One issue that did not go anywhere was that $41 million a year of your tax money being diverted to Congress Avenue lobbyists,” Middleton said. “(The money is) not for roads or other necessary projects. And they could be advocating against your best interest. It passed the Texas Senate but was 18 votes short in the House.”
But Middleton was happy mandatory tax relief appraisals will be on the ballot in November.
“Say your house is damaged in August by water in a storm,” he said. “In October, November, or December, they should cut the value of that, because it is not right to take the valuation of an undamaged home based on the previous January’s valuation. What this allows you to do is keep your hard-earned money in your own pocket to rebuild after a disaster.”
Middleton said a good thing for Chambers County was the passage of SB6.
“We cannot annex anymore without permission,” he said. “People choose to live where they want to. It is not right to forcibly annex someone into a city without giving them a say. From now on, everyone gets to vote if there is going to be an annex.”
Middleton and Creighton said they passed legislation to rename a portion of Highway 99 after Chambers County Deputy Shane Detwiler, who was killed in the line of duty in 2009. Middleton said on Sept. 29, the sign with Detwiler’s name on it would be unveiled on Highway 99 south of Interstate 10.
Jim Wadzinski, a community leader, asked what was the latest with the “Ike Dike,” a proposed coastal barrier that is supposed to protect the area from a future major storm. This was addressed in SB7, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in June.
“The bookends of the dike will be funded with money that will draw down federal dollars to start building the bookends of what is designed,” Creighton said. “It may be a long time before the rest to be funded or approved or constructed. Rep. Middleton is involved on that. There is $200 billion in SB7 that will leverage federal dollars to begin construction to protect our petrochemical complex and our navigation district waterways.”
Both were asked about SB2344 and HB3797 and HB3835, which would allow Barbers Hill ISD to exit Lee College’s service area, and then allow Lone Star College to come in with their own campus. All of the bills died on deadline day.
“I believe in my heart, where we have 60 percent of kids in need a post-secondary education, we need community colleges,” Middleton said. “There was a disagreement on how we get there. We ran out of time. We are working on a compromise that allows people to vote their way out or into an (extra territorial jurisdiction),” Middleton said. “But we just didn’t get there.”