Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick prioritizes property tax relief, electric grid fixes and border security for 2023 legislative session
By James Barragán and Erin Douglas, The Texas Tribune
“Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick prioritizes property tax relief, electric grid fixes and border security for 2023 legislative session” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Wednesday unveiled a list of 21 legislative priorities including property tax relief, improving the reliability of the electric grid and continuing to spend money on border security funding.
Patrick, who presides over the Senate and wields tremendous power over legislation, said lawmakers have an “extraordinary opportunity” to shape the future of Texas at the start of the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 10, because they’re expected to have a $27 billion budget surplus to spend on state projects.
Patrick said he would prioritize spending some of that surplus on property tax relief in the form of increasing the homestead exemptions for homeowners. But he cautioned that the state could not spend the entirety of the surplus.
Patrick called for lawmakers to pass legislation that would cause investors to build more natural gas plants in Texas, which he argues would prevent another power grid crisis. In February 2021, a severe winter storm caused days-long blackouts across the state and hundreds of Texans died during the crisis.
Patrick said the Legislature made “great progress” last session with Senate Bills 2 and 3. Those laws required power generation companies to better prepare facilities to withstand extreme weather, authorized the Public Utility Commission to make changes to the state’s power market, and bailed out gas utilities and electric companies from financial crisis with rate-payer backed bonds and loans.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the PUC, which regulates electricity infrastructure, are still working to redesign Texas’ power market. A plan proposed this month aims to use financial rewards and punishments to incentivize more power generation to be available during times of very high power demand. During a Tuesday press conference, the CEO of ERCOT Pablo Vegas and Chair of the PUC Peter Lake both emphasized that the changes would be “technologically agnostic” and would not prioritize one source of power generation over another.
But Patrick characterized the market redesign by regulators as a “long-range plan” and called for legislation that would cause additional natural-gas fired power plants to be built in addition to the market changes. He called renewable sources of energy “a luxury.”
Last session, the Senate unsuccessfully sought to shift the financial burden of purchasing reserve power for the grid onto wind and solar producers. Patrick appeared to call for similar legislation, or another proposal that would give natural gas generators an edge over low-cost wind power. He said he couldn’t see himself leaving the session without a “guarantee” that more natural gas plants would be built in Texas.
“We have to level the playing field so that we attract investment in natural gas plants,” Patrick said. “We can’t leave here next spring unless we have a plan for more natural gas power.”
“If you can’t turn the lights on, you don’t have a Texas miracle,” Patrick said.
This story is being updated. Check back for more details.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/11/30/dan-patrick-texas-legislature-priorities/.
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