AUSTIN (CBSNewsTexas.com) – In a little over an hour, a Texas Senate committee and the full Texas Senate passed a bill promising a record amount of property tax relief.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told reporters, "The Senate just passed the largest tax cut in the history of the world."
For weeks now, Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan have chastised each other's plans in news conferences, statements and tweets.
But Patrick said he worked with Senate members over the weekend to develop a new bill that he hopes will be considered by the House in the remaining week of the special session called by the governor.
Senate Bill 26 provides a total of $18 billion in property tax relief.
That's $400 million more than previously budgeted, but senators say the state has the money.
Most homeowners would see their homestead exemptions rise to $100,000, and the homestead exemption for homeowners over 65 would increase to $110,000.
Senators say that provides savings of nearly $2,600 dollars to most homeowners for the first two years and nearly $3,000 in savings for the first two years for homeowners over 65.
Sen. Royce West of Dallas said all Texans want this. "This is Democrats and Republicans standing today here together. Yes, there have been issues in the past we have not agreed upon, but this we agree upon for all our constituents."
The new Senate bill also doubles the business franchise tax exemption to nearly $2.5 million.
The author of the bill, Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston said, "That means 67,000 businesses no longer pay a franchise tax."
Now that the Senate has passed the bill, it would have to also be approved by the Texas House.
They approved their own legislation, favored by Abbott, weeks ago and then left town.
Like the Senate plan, it reduces property tax rates and replaces them with state revenues. But unlike the Senate plan, the House plan does not include a provision to increase the homestead exemption.
Abbott has said he would like the state to gradually eliminate property taxes that go toward paying for public schools and replace that with state revenues.
The lieutenant governor has said that is not realistic.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon after the news conference, Abbott's Communications Director Renae Eze issued a statement saying, "The Governor has been clear that his goal is to put Texans on a pathway to eliminate their school M&O property taxes, and the best way to do that is to devote all property tax relief to cutting property tax rates. The Governor has also been clear that the only way a property tax bill gets to his desk is for the Texas House and Texas Senate to agree to a bill and get it to the Governor's desk, and he encourages the two chambers to work towards a solution."
Patrick said, "We want, in all sincerity, the Texas House to return and pass this bill. I would ask Governor Abbott to take a serious look at this package and support the package."
The longest serving member of the Senate, John Whitmire, D-Houston criticized Abbott for vetoing 77 bills in an effort to get lawmakers to pass a property tax bill.
He also criticized Speaker Dade Phelan for leaving the Capitol. "We're not going to get it done til both Houses are in Austin and working and I would urge the governor to use the leverage of his office, not necessarily in the fashion that he's done in the past weekend. I would urge Gov. Abbott to get as involved as he can be. Speaker, come back to Austin."
Voters will have to go to the polls in November to raise the homestead exemption in the Texas Constitution.
If approved, the tax cuts will be retroactive and include this year.
But to get on the ballot, the House and Senate would need to agree on a bill and send it to the governor within six weeks from now.
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