Texas District 14 State Rep. John Raney spoke recently before several dozen members and guests of the Bryan Rotary Club to deliver his reflections and analysis of the just-completed 86th legislative session.
After weeks of deliberations and compromise, the Texas Legislature passed a nearly
$251 billion two-year budget on the penultimate day of the session. The budget includes a 16% climb in spending, according to reporting from the Texas Tribune.
Both chambers unanimously approved the final version of House Bill 3, which includes more than $5 billion to lower school district taxes and $6.5 billion for public education and teacher pay. The final version raises the amount of per-student funding for each school district in the state and requires that a portion of the funds go toward raising teacher salaries.
“You could say I’m pretty excited about education reform,” Raney said following his presentation Wednesday. “I think that’s very, very important. I wish that we had done some more things with some little bills that I had.
“The important thing is we raised the state’s percentage of contribution to public education up to 46 or 47 percent,” he continued. “In the old days, it was up around 50 percent, but it had hovered around 42 percent until now. I think it’s gonna be a big opportunity for our local districts to lower your taxes locally because they will have more money coming from the state.
“The bill gives districts the funding they need to invest in their classrooms, students and teachers,” Raney added. He said that House bills 1 and 3 reduce property taxes by a statewide average of 5.5%. “Every Texan will see a permanent property tax reduction, and the bill provides the option to lower property taxes further in the future.”
On House Bill 3, Raney said, “There were those who wanted an across-the-board increase of pay, and we decided — rightly or wrongly, and I think it was rightly — that we would allow the school districts to make those increases the way they wanted to and would be able to give merit raises if they choose.”
“They can also raise the pay for staff, bus drivers and other people who were, under the original concept, not included,” he added.
He also touched on other related bills.
“House Bill 3 and House Bill 1 provide property tax relief, and I know that was something most of us were interested in,” Raney said. “House Bill 2 provides property tax reform. All three bills work hand-in-hand and are critical in bringing these priorities for Texas.”
Raney also talked about the Legislature’s decision late in the session not to give about $100 million from the state’s savings account to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration to expand operations near the Mexico border. He said the state already funded border security efforts to the tune of approximately $800 million.
“When we talk about border security, we’re not talking about immigration,” Raney said. “The state of Texas has no authority over immigration. What we were trying to do with DPS is control human trafficking and drugs and gangs. Those are the three things we were trying to do, and I think we’ve been fairly successful with that.”
Referring to the legislative body’s vote to expand Texas’ list of medical conditions that are legally treatable by cannabis oil, he said, “We did do some things with regard to marijuana and medical health, and it was something that I voted for.” He then mentioned various forums and other efforts put on by Brazos County senior district judge John Delaney with regard to reforming the state’s policies and laws on marijuana.
“The main thing is, if it will help someone with their pain and not get onto an opioid, I’m happy for them to do that,” Raney said.
Delaney then asked Raney about the state passing on potential tax revenues if marijuana were to be legalized for recreation, as it has been in Colorado and some other states — and asked for his thoughts on why such arguments have not proven persuasive in the state.
Raney responded by saying that some of his colleagues are opposed to more taxes and fees generally, and cited the rejection of a $10 fee on vehicle registration in Brazos and other counties that would have helped fund the just-approved regional mobility authority. Raney said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick effectively killed the measure.
“I also personally would like to see us, instead of sending our gambling dollars to Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana, to have casinos here,” he added. “That’s self-imposed — you impose it on yourself by going. I know there are people who are morally opposed to gambling, and I understand that — but I also say that they don’t have to go. But that’s not going to happen, either.”
The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.