East Texas lawmakers talk legislative opportunities with record surplus

East Texas lawmakers talk legislative opportunities with record surplus
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 7:03 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2023 at 8:09 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - East Texas lawmakers are back in Austin for the 88th Legislative Session. Among the big questions asked of them this session: how will they use a record $33 billion surplus?

“We have an opportunity to really have a generational change and invest that money in the future of Texas,” said State Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches).

State Rep. Jay Dean (R-Longview) sits on appropriations, meaning he’ll play a big part in deciding where some of the money goes.

“There’ll be a lot of people coming forward looking to spend that money,” Dean said. “But I think it’s important for us appropriators to remind ourselves that that’s taxpayer dollars. Right? That’s money that citizens are paying into the coffers, and we have to do everything we possibly can to make sure to give them a return of that money in the best ways that we possibly can.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has already said talks about spending the money should begin with lowering property taxes. East Texas lawmakers echoed the sentiment.

“The State of Texas does not charge property tax,” said State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola). “Our school districts do, cities do, counties do, community colleges, and other taxing entities charge property taxes. So, for the state to reduce property taxes, we have to take part of those state funds and say for example, “lower your property taxes in this amount.’”

And while the money is there to spend, lawmakers like Hughes agree some of it must be saved.

“Our country may be heading into a recession,” he said. “But the politicians in Washington are certainly doing their part. So, we’re going to have a hedge against that because if times do get hard, we want to be prepared.”

Along with statewide priorities, many East Texas lawmakers also have local priorities, like Rep. Travis Clardy getting approval for Stephen F. Austin State University to participate in the permanent university fund after joining the UT system in late November.