Remember the special session on school finance reform last year, when the House passed a shell bill to the Senate? It's beginning to look to me like they did the same thing this year, based on comments like these.
Senate leaders found little to like about the legislation, other than that it's designed to raise money exclusively for property tax reduction.
"There are some philosophical differences, there's no question about it," said state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano. "We'll make adjustments."
Shapiro, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, criticized the business tax proposal, the taxes on bottled water and snacks, and the way property taxes are distributed to schools under the House plan.
"I don't think this body will go to a full penny [increase] on the sales tax," Shapiro said. "I don't think this body agrees with a payroll tax at all."
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst piles on:
"We're very focused in the Senate on the regressive nature of some taxes, and that's why we've been focused on how we reduce the tax incidence level for the poorest in our society," said Dewhurst.
Dewhurst said the Senate will include a provision to allow the nearly 90,000 Texans who qualify for food stamps to receive a rebate on a portion of sales taxes. The Senate also is considering a requirement that apartment owners pass through to tenants a portion of their property tax relief until markets lower rents.
Shapiro, R-Plano, said the Senate is "ice cold" on the payroll tax portion of HB 3. That provision would place a 1.15 percent levy on a company's payroll. Dewhurst said the Senate favors expanding the existing franchise tax to partnerships, but reducing the rate from 4.5 percent of net income to about 1.25 percent.
Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said the Senate will include a smaller sales tax hike than the 1-percent increase passed by the House.
Dewhurst said higher alcohol taxes are "on the table." The House resoundingly rejected an amendment to HB 3 that would have increased taxes on beer and wine by 3 percent.