Katelyn Robertson, Correspondent
With the Texas Legislative session nearing its end in just under two weeks, District 55 Representative Hugh Shine stopped by the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce on May 13 to share an update on several bills making their way through committees.
One such bill was House Bill 4621, which would raise sales taxes. One proposal, Shine said, would not designate the funds to a specific purpose, meaning they would go into the General Fund and could be used for any purpose. The other proposal would designate the revenue from taxes to a specific purpose, specifically to tax relief.
“In the minds of lots of folks, the sales tax is considered to be regressive,” Shine said. “What we did on that is we broke it down based on a per capita basis. We took the people that live in different representative districts and looked at their income.”
According to Shine, a sales tax increase for residents of Bell County in District 55 would mean that about 16 percent would receive a tax cut, with about 83 percent seeing a tax increase.
Shine reported that some districts would see as high as 94 percent of constituents facing a tax increase.
The Senate convened last week, and the decision was made not to put this proposal in its legislation, prompting the House to make the same decision.
Shine went on to say that the House did several things well during this legislation, a success he attributes to the leadership in the House.
“The House did a great job right from the start of setting priorities,” he said. “We had three major things we wanted to get done this session: we wanted to get transparency and get appraisal review reforms, we wanted to try and address the budget for the state as early as possible, and we wanted to address public education in as broad of a perspective as we could.”
According to Shine, the number one priority of the House was public education; so much so, that when the much-anticipated House Bill 3 came up for a vote, the Speaker of the House said “show the speaker voting ‘aye’.”
“That’s a pretty strong statement to make for the chair,” Shine said, since the Speaker rarely votes on legislation. “It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, especially on something this important.
House Bill 3 passed through the House with a vote of 148 to one, Shine said. The bill had 116 co-authors and saw over 90 amendments. Debate over the bill, which would have major impact on public education funding if it is passed, lasted roughly four hours. The bill is now currently heading into committee meeting.
“House Bill 3 is the only legislation that has the potential of giving taxpayers any kind of property tax relief, because school funding is the issue,” Shine said. “School funding is the reason that property taxes are so high.”
House Bill 3, as well as all other issues facing legislation right now, can be found at www.capitol.texas.gov, where bills themselves can be found in their entirety, and their progress through legislation can be tracked.