HOUSTON - The Texas legislative session in Austin is 30 days away and this spring lawmakers will have an unprecedented pile of surplus money to spend.
Over the past few weeks, the big three of Lone Star State Government, Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Dade Phelan have begun sharing publicly their thoughts on just how all that extra cash should be invested.
Fresh off his re-election to a third term as a leader of the Texas Senate, Lt. Governor Patrick relayed his own plans for how he'd like to invest the unprecedented $30 billion budget surplus.
Topping his list, is significant property tax relief, most likely, in the form of a higher homestead exemption.
"When you have this kind of money you have to get it back to the taxpayer," said Patrick.
With so much cash on hand, Patrick says Texas has more than enough resources to bolster significantly the troubled power grid, in part, by incentivizing weather-resistant, dis-patchable, natural gas generation.
"This Texas miracle, if you can't turn the lights on, you don't have the Texas miracle," said Patrick referring to the state's robust economy.
And in the aftermath of the Uvalde mass murder, Patrick proposes a $2 billion investment for mental health care facilities in rural Texas. "This is something we have to do for our community," said Patrick.
Other Patrick priorities included better compensation for teachers, both active and retired, and an endowment for state colleges unsupported by the Permanent University Fund.
When it comes to higher education, Patrick and Abbott share common ground with both looking to establish major endowments for Texas Tech and the University of Houston, public institutions long excluded from the Permanent University Fund, benefiting both the U.T. and Texas A&M Systems.
Topping Gov. Abbott's priority list is a massive rebate to the citizens.
"People in Texas are fed up with our property taxes and we need to step up and do something about it and the most prolific way we can do something about it is by using at least half of our surplus to reduce property taxes. The people who deserve that money are the taxpayers of the state of Texas," Abbott said.
However, there could be some pushback emerging in the House, where Speaker Phelan has emphasized the necessity of generational upgrades and the state's aging and inadequate infrastructure.
"Let me just remind you, none of this money came from property taxes. It all came from sales tax. Whatever we do on property tax relief, I just want to say we have to do it every single session in perpetuity of raising your taxes. Because how it works is we bogged down your local school tax. We pay more. You pay less in your school tax. States make up the difference. Well, guess what? Next session, I guarantee you, in 2025, there will not be $30 billion in surplus. There may be none. That's how it works," Phelan remarked.
Though Abbott and Phelan may disagree on one piece, Phelan will find agreement from Patrick when it comes to the fragile Texas power grid, struggling to keep up with the growing state's insatiable demand for electricity.
"I personally cannot see myself leaving this building knowing that another Uri could happen," Patrick