Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Updating the Numbers

Amid the hubbub of yesterday's school finance meltdown in the House, we goofed on two numbers. The proposal by Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) that amended House Bill 2, the school finance plan, didn't quite triple the homestead exemption, as we stated in a previous post. Past incarnations of Hochberg's plan tripled the current $15,000 homestead exemption, but this time it proposed increasing the exemption to $32,500. That would still provide much more help to lower- and middle-income families on their property taxes than the leadership's version of HB 2. The rich folks wouldn't benefit quite as much, though. (Exempting $32,500 in value from property taxes helps a lot more when your home costs $150,000, than it does if you live in a $3 million mansion). Hochberg's plan also would provide more money for schools, which we thought was the whole point of this exercise (call us crazy).

Also, we miscounted by one the number of Republicans who broke ranks with the Speaker to vote for Hochberg's amendment. The total was 14.

The House and Senate are both adjourned until Thursday. The telecom, judicial pay raise, and tuition revenue bond bills are all still out there. With school finance foundering, though, those bills are in some limbo. For one, leadership in both chambers has been using those issues to leverage votes on school finance. But more than that, we're thinking it wouldn't be the best PR move to kill school finance and then pass a bill that aids big corporations like SBC (telecom) or that boosts legislators' own retirement benefits (judicial pay raise). If that happens, some lawmakers might find themselves tapping into those retirement benefits a little earlier than they expected.