Texas GOP critical of Phelan's latest legislative priorities

House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, announced additional legislative priorities this week that again exclude priorities of the Republican Party of Texas and attempt to resurrect a tax abatement program that the legislature last session ensured sunset.

Phelan, who is announcing bills he supports in a piecemeal approach, instead of an overarching plan like that proposed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, excluded key priorities voted on by Texas GOP delegates. Instead, the bills Phelan first prioritized included expanding data and online privacy protections, expanding Medicaid for new mothers, including those in Texas illegally, and tax exemptions for female hygiene products.

Bills filed that Phelan says he’s prioritizing are HB 5, filed by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, HB 8, filed by Rep. Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston, and HB 19, filed by Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Kerrville. The first two would expand state subsidies, spending and bureaucracy, which the Texas GOP and fiscal conservatives generally oppose, arguing instead that reducing spending and the size of government should be prioritized and benefit taxpayers.

Phelan’s first four legislative priorities “stand in stark contrast to the boldness” of those proposed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Jill Glover, who’s chair of the Texas GOP’s SREC Legislative Priorities Committee, said in a statement.

“The border is open, inflation is hurting families, the left is targeting our children, crime is skyrocketing, and Speaker Phelan’s first four priorities were two bills pertaining to data privacy, expanding Medicaid, and removing the sales tax on women’s hygiene products,” she said. “His next three priorities, announced this week, were a corporate welfare bill, one dealing with community colleges and the establishment of new business courts.”

Dubbed as the Texas Jobs & Security Act, Hunter’s bill would resurrect the Chapter 313 tax abatement program of the Texas Tax Code, which sunset Dec. 31. The program allowed school districts to offer large tax breaks for 10 years to renewable energy companies and other businesses. The school districts don’t directly “feel” the hefty financial losses because taxpayers subsidize the difference through sales and other state-collected taxes, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which supported the program’s end, has explained. Taxpayers actually pay far more over time, reducing the value of their earnings, TPPF argues.

Had the legislature extended the program, the Texas Legislative Budget Board estimated it would have cost another $9.6 billion in “local school district revenue losses” between 2023 and 2049.

In 2019, the Republican majority in the state House overwhelmingly voted to extend Chapter 313 for another 10 years, from 2022 to 2032. The measure failed in the Senate, but Hunter is trying to resurrect it again. Phelan says the tax incentives “would be targeted and temporary in attracting large-scale, capital intensive projects related to the manufacturing, national security and energy infrastructure industries.”

The platforms of both the Republican and Democratic parties express support for ending Chapter 313.

VanDeaver’s bill would expand state funding for community colleges in Texas by establishing a new funding model, create a new scholarship program, increase the opportunity for “economically disadvantaged high school students to enroll in dual credit courses,” among other measures.

Murr’s bill would create a business court system in Texas to handle complex business cases.

Of these legislative proposals, Phelan said, “We have a good thing going here in Texas. … As Texas continues to grow and attract even more business that creates jobs and spurs local economics, our state must ensure that we have the kinds of tools to keep us competitive with others on a national and global scale.”

Yet, no statewide or Republican Party polls have listed data and online privacy, expanding Medicaid, or exempting feminine products from state sales tax as legislative priorities. Nor have any expressed support for reviving a corporate welfare program both Democrats and Republicans have opposed, expanding funding for community colleges or creating a new business court as legislative priorities.

Democrats and Republicans in a recent poll have instead prioritized border security/illegal immigration as the top issue the legislature should address (24%), followed by education (8%), social issues (7%), and the economy (5%).

An overwhelming majority, 91%, said they support health care price transparency; 80% oppose taxpayer-funded lobbying and want it banned; 73% said they want more school choice options, including 77% of Independents and 66% of Democrats.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post