Never look a gift horse in the mouth, or so the old adage goes. That’s some advice educators and school boards might want to ignore even as they celebrate the drying ink of the governor’s signature on a bill that “does more to advance education in the state of Texas than any law that I have seen in my adult lifetime...”
That is how Gov. Greg Abbott described House Bill 3 during a signing ceremony Tuesday at Parmer Lane Elementary School in Austin. With Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen by his side, Abbott said “the magnitude of the law” could not be overstated.
House Bill 3 is a $11.6 billion school finance measure that includes about $6.5 billion in new public education spending, plus about $5.1 billion devoted to lowering Texans’ property tax bills, according to The Texas Tribune.
That last part, the property tax portion, is going to be a challenge if the economy takes a turn for the worse. Republican leadership talked about a possible “tax swap,” which involved increasing sales taxes for decreasing property taxes. It’s should come as no surprise the idea flopped.
That left the financial weight of HB 3 to be carried by a rosy economic outlook, which lawmakers hope will provide $10 billion or so more than last biennium and by a Supreme Court ruling expected to provide $550 million in sales tax collections from online sales.
A threat to either of those could well endanger school budgets as the state remains on the hook for ongoing property tax relief.