How to spend the budget surplus

Patrick, whose railing against property taxes swept him into the Senate in 2007, has said he is committed to cutting property taxes but wants to move cautiously to ensure the state has enough money left over in its rainy day fund for emergency spending and for other state priorities.

In the House, Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, has suggested allocating some of the surplus to one-time infrastructure spending. That plan carries the advantage of not having to reproduce that spending in the budget every two years, like with property tax relief, which is a recurring state cost.

But there are also other factors to consider. A property tax cut, for example, would more directly benefit homeowners rather than renters. And since a considerable chunk of the surplus comes from an increase in the revenue generated by sales tax, some lawmakers have raised the question about the fairness of rewarding only homeowners when that money has come from Texans across the board.

It’s also unclear how much homeowners would even notice a property tax cut in the form of a homestead exemption. In 2021, lawmakers increased the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000, which would save the average homeowner of a $300,000 home about $175 a year.

“Parental rights”

LGBTQ issues and women’s health

Border security

 The “Big Three” dynamic

Phelan, speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin in September, added it had “been a while” since he talked to Patrick.

Abbott and Patrick are also a duo to watch. Like Phelan, Abbott saw Patrick meddle in his primary and took note. And more recently, they are especially at odds when it comes to the fallout from the 2021 power grid collapse.

After Abbott declared later that year that lawmakers had done all they needed to do to fix the grid, Patrick campaigned on improving the grid and has named it a top priority for this session. He wants to build more natural gas capacity, a topic on which Abbott has been silent.

Patrick has sought to downplay any leadership tensions on the issue.

The grid is “fixed for now, but we need to fix it forever,” Patrick told Spectrum News in December.

Democratic strategy
Democrats are returning to the Legislature with very similar numbers — 64 members in the House and 13 in the Senate. But in the House, they have a new caucus chair, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio, who is known as more sharp-elbowed than his predecessor, Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie.

“Trey is a much different leader,” Rep. Ron Reynolds of Missouri City, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said in a recent interview. “I anticipate there’ll be a more aggressive nature when combating Republicans on the issues.”

House Democrats already showed a new willingness to fight in 2021 when they broke quorum for weeks in protest of new voting restrictions. Martinez Fischer has not ruled out doing that again as a last resort for trying to derail Republican legislation.

Democrats in the House are also watching to see how much of a seat at the table they get as Phelan faces pressure to do away with committee chairs from the minority party, a longtime tradition. Phelan is highly unlikely to give in, as he has defended the practice as one that sets the Legislature apart from the gridlock in Washington. But he could take other steps to reduce Democratic influence in the House.

If there is any floor fight over committee chairs, it would come on the second day of the session — Wednesday — when the lower chamber typically considers its rules for the session.

House Republicans have a new leader, too. On Monday, their caucus elected a new chair, Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth, previously the treasurer of the caucus. The chair during the 2021 sessions, Rep. Jim Murphy of Houston, did not seek reelection to the House.

This article was written by JAMES BARRAGÁN AND PATRICK SVITEK  of The Texas Tribune.  The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.  This article originally appeared at: