Shortly after his re-election Tuesday night, Gov. Greg Abbott said it’s time for Texans to “work side by side.” He said that “what unites us as Texans is far greater than our differences.”
Certainly, Abbott is out to reassert his power after failing last year to mend bitter party infighting in the Republican-controlled legislature, and lawmakers brushed off many of his policy demands — two of which were property tax and school finance reforms.
To get an idea just how split the GOP was during the last session, both Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and outgoing Speaker of the House Joe Straus offered their takes on the 2017 session shortly after Tuesday’s election.
Last year, the tension between Straus and Patrick came to a head when they were unable to agree on issues such as how much to limit cities’, counties’ and special jurisdictions’ abilities to raise property taxes — and, most controversially, a “bathroom bill” that would have restricted the use of certain public facilities for transgender Texans.
In interviews with the Texas Tribune, Patrick said the House was in disarray and that Straus was uncommunicative with both him and Abbott.
“I don’t think I had five phone calls with (Straus) that lasted longer than five minutes,” Patrick said. “I’m not being critical of him at all, but when he criticizes the Senate — it’s laughable.”
Straus had a different take. Patrick, who presides over the Senate, should “listen more and talk less,” Straus said. “Include the senators more.”
It’s fairly easy to see one of the biggest obstacles to passing much-needed property tax and school finance reforms was at the leadership level — in both the House and Senate.
For years, each time the session rolls around there is a lot of talk about those two reforms.
As for school funding, the state Supreme Court said it was legal but in terrible shape. Basically, the justices gave the state a passing grade — a barely passing grade.
And as for property tax reform, in the end, the House and Senate could not come together on a measure to give voters more control over municipal tax increases through rollback votes. The House wanted the trigger set at a 6 percent tax increase, the Senate at a 4 percent increase.
The measure died when the House adjourned without taking a vote on it.
Abbott has placed those two reforms at the top of his priority list — where we think they should be. We think a majority of taxpayers would want those reforms.
Now let’s see if legislators can work side by side getting those passed.
They haven’t had much luck in the past.
• Dave Mathews