Victory Tour Relief Amarillo
Thank you, Superintendent (Rod) Schroder. I am honored to be joined today by two leaders who helped Texas achieve a historic victory on school finance- Rep. Warren Chisum and Sen. Florence Shapiro.
This week I am proud to put my signature on a bill that will reform our schools, reward our teachers and deliver lasting relief to taxpayers with the largest property tax cut in Texas history.
I wholeheartedly believe this is one of the most significant legislative accomplishments for Texas in a generation, because it is one of the most significant steps we have ever taken to improve opportunity for the next generation.
And it would not have been possible without the leadership and hard work of Representative Chisum and Senator Shapiro.
On a bill that addresses taxes and education, two issues that always elicit great passion and heated debate, they not only managed to secure the necessary vote, they passed House Bill 1 with an overwhelming combined margin of 167-8.
Because of their leadership, homeowners and businesses will save $15.7 billion on school property taxes over the next three years, enough to lower rates by 33 percent, and make the dream of homeownership more affordable for millions of Texas families.
This is a tax cut Texans can take to the bank, and count on in the years to come because of three important reforms.
First, we dedicated increased revenues from other tax reforms to sustain property tax relief.
In other words, for every new dollar government raises from these dedicated sources, one dollar will go back to homeowners and businesses in property tax relief.
Second, we reduced the amount local school boards can increase tax rates, from 6 cents each and every year, to 4 cents one time only.
If school boards want additional tax dollars, they have to ask taxpayers for their permission at the ballot box.
And third, taxpayers will have the most significant protections against appraisal increases ever adopted in Texas.
If rising home values yield more revenue than the people have authorized, government must return it unless voters say otherwise.
That means from now on, when a home value goes up, the biggest winner will be the family that owns it, not the entity that taxes it.
I have often said that Texans not only want more money for education, they want more education for their money.
House Bill 1 achieves both of these important goals.
This bill provides $1.8 billion in additional funding for college readiness and dropout prevention efforts, tougher math and science requirements, teacher mentoring initiatives, and a well-deserved $2,000 pay raise for every Texas teacher.
Teachers are the heart of any successful education effort, and their salaries should reflect the outstanding job they are doing to prepare our children for a lifetime of success.
And those who have the greatest impact in the classroom should be rewarded even more.
That is exactly what Texas will do because this bill creates the largest merit pay program in America.
With $360 million, we will reward the very best teachers with bonuses of up to $10,000, and encourage them to keep making a difference in the lives of Texas children.
In addition to substantially increasing funding for education, House Bill 1 ensures that the state picks up a greater share of the cost of education, that funding between school districts is more equitable than ever before, and that by 2008 school districts will keep nearly $1 billion more in local property tax dollars that would have been shipped to other parts of the state under the old system.
And new financial accountability measures will ensure taxpayers have detailed information about how local dollars are spent.
Taxpayers will be able to compare their school district’s budget to the expenditures of schools in the surrounding area, a form of accountability that will ensure better stewardship of tax dollars.
This session was a tremendous success.
We passed a historic property tax cut, implemented business tax reforms supported by dozens of employer associations and chambers of commerce, and raised salaries for Texas teachers, even while lowering the overall tax burden by $7 billion.
And because of House Bill 1, school finance is now out of the courthouse, and back on constitutional footing.
I am proud to sign the bill that helped make it all possible, but first, please join me in welcoming the author of House Bill 1, Representative Warren Chisum.
I am honored to introduce the bill’s sponsor, Senator Florence Shapiro.
And now it is my great honor to sign House Bill 1 into law.
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