2015 Legislative Wrap-Up

AUSTIN, September 22, 2015 - The 2015 legislative session that concluded on June 1 considered thousands of bills and passed more than 1,300 of them, including HB 1, the General Appropriations Act, a weighty budget document calling for $209.4 billion in state spending in the next two years.

The 2016-17 biennial budget is a fiscally prudent one, well beneath various spending caps built into state law.

In addition to HB 1, however, a number of other new laws will have significant impacts on our state's finances. In this issue, Fiscal Notes takes a look at a few of the most important ones.

From the start of the 2015 session, the state's leadership made it clear that meaningful tax relief would be a major priority. Two bills delivered on this promise.

Due to increased population growth and ongoing maintenance and construction needs, increased transportation funding was a critical goal of the 2015 session.

Senate Bill 1: Property Tax Relief

SB 1 will provide relief from school property taxes by increasing the amount of the residence homestead exemption — property value that can be excluded from tax — from $15,000 to $25,000. Thus a school district would tax a residence appraised at $200,000, for instance, at a value of $185,000 before SB 1 and $175,000 afterward.

Since the amount of the exemption is established in the state constitution, Texas voters will be asked in November to approve an amendment making the change.

Importantly, SB 1 also requires the state to make up for the loss in funding to school districts, which rely heavily on property tax revenues. According to the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), absorbing these losses will cost the state about $1.2 billion in the next two years, and more thereafter.



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