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Phelan: Ken Paxton shouldn't use millions of taxpayer dollars to settle whisteblower lawsuit

Phelan: Ken Paxton shouldn't use millions of taxpayer dollars to settle whisteblower lawsuit
Phelan: Ken Paxton shouldn't use millions of taxpayer dollars to settle whisteblower lawsuit 03:06

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan didn't mince his words about the $3.3 million Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has agreed to pay four of his former top staffers to settle their whistleblower lawsuit against him.

Court documents show the four men and others went to the FBI more than two years ago and made allegations of bribery against Paxton, who later fired them and called them "rogue employees."

In a statement Friday, Paxton said he's settling the case in part to save taxpayer money, but Phelan disagreed taxpayers should pay. "I don't anticipate that $3.3 million will be in the House budget. Mr. Paxton is going to have to come to the Texas House. He'll have to appear before the House Appropriations Committee and make the case to that committee as to why that is proper use of taxpayers' dollars and then he's going to have to sell it to 76 members of the Texas House. That's his job, not mine." 

When asked if he supports it personally, Phelan said, "No, I don't think it's proper use of taxpayers' dollars."

Phelan spoke with CBS 11 Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol.

We reached out to the Attorney General's office seeking comment but we didn't receive a statement. 

Phelan is focused on the legislative session and how to use the state's nearly $33 billion surplus.

Property tax relief is a priority, and Phelan said he wants to address what he calls runaway property appraisals and the fact that the taxable value of your home can go up by as much as 10% a year. "I think we need to look at lowering that and applying it to everyone, all the property owners. So everyone has the benefit of true property tax relief. Small businesses, medium businesses, large businesses, landowners, timber value, you name it."

He said that would save renters money too because right now, there is no cap on how much the taxable value of apartment complexes can increase.

But there would be no guarantee of it.

Phelan said he would leave it to the marketplace.

Also this session, Phelan said the House will hold hearings into social media companies and their impact on children. "We're going to take Big Tech on in the Texas House."

He said when it comes to social media in Texas, there needs to be a bill of rights. "We know for a fact from whistleblowers that many of these social media companies know their algorithms are predatory, they know children are addicted to their business plan and they can't put their phones down. We're seeing mental health issues, obviously show their ugly head in public ed and higher ed. I just met with some Chancellors just today about the mental health needs on their campuses to the likes they've never seen before. I point the finger at social media."

Our interview with Speaker Phelan comes as Governor Greg Abbott prepares to deliver his State of the State address Thursday night, in which he'll lay out his emergency legislative items for state lawmakers to consider.

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