State Rep. Paddie calls legislative session "transformational" for Texas public education
He was speaking to members of the Tenaha Businessmen's Club and guests at the group's annual Christmas banquet on Dec. 12.
“It was one of the most transformational sessions for public education we've had in decades,” Paddie said. “We're incredibly proud of that and I will tell you that wasn't by mistake.”
From the opening of the legislative session and the election of a new Speaker of the House it was clear the officials wanted to tackle and make a difference in public education.
“For me that was a very welcome sight,” he said. “I've been an advocate for public education, especially rural public education, for years.”
In conjunction with that was tackling property tax issues.
“There was no question about it, public education was laid out as the top priority of the legislature going in,” Paddie said. The number two priority was tackling the state's property issues.
“When you start talking about school finance reform you can't get true reform, and you certainly can't get property tax relief, without addressing the school finance issue because that is the number one driver of property taxes.”
Paddie said House Bill 3 passed by the Texas Legislature earlier in 2019, reversed long standing trends for property owners seeing ever increasing property rates.
“If you go back a couple of decades, the state used to contribute in excess of 60 percent to public education in the state,” he said. “After the last session, not this one, the one before, that percentage was down to about 36 percent.
“We reversed that trend this last session,” Paddie said. With HB 3 the state's contribution to public education funding is back up to about 44 percent, he said.
“We hope to get back to 50 percent,” he said. “We also wanted to focus on rewarding our teachers.”
The state put about $5 billion toward property tax relief.
“We also wanted to empower our districts to be able to take on the challenges they face,” Paddie said. With the combination of the focus on public education and property tax relief that has been possible
For Tenaha ISD, the property tax rate dropped from $1.04 to 97 cents per $100 valuation. In Center ISD, the tax rate dropped from $1.17 per $100 valuation to $1.06 and Joaquin the rate dropped from $1.17 to $1.06 per $100 property valuation.
“Because of this you're able to write a little bit smaller property tax check this year than you did last year,” he said.
He said inroads were made toward improving funding for community colleges, transportation and public safety. In the area of improving the situation for the state's retired teachers from public schools progress was made in the legislature to get the TRS from being actuarily insolvent to being back on sound financial footing.
Looking toward the future, Paddie said with 2020 being a year the nation's census is taken there will be lots of maneuvering on redistricting. While the state's population is up an estimated 14-to-15 percent, most of that growth is in urban areas.
“Those people are not moving to rural areas,” he said. For the six counties making up House District 9, which Paddie now serves the population is down about 8-9 percent.
Paddie said after redistricting takes place he predicts instead of a House district representing a population of about 175,000 people, the district will probably include about 200,000 and that could mean adding a seventh county to the 9th House District, thus diluting the rural area's representation even more.
While he was not I the legislature for the last round of redistricting after the 2010 Census, Paddie said he expects a very partisan fight in the next session. He expects East Texas to lose at least one House seat in the Texas Legislature.
“The reason that happens is that someone's district in East Texas will get cannabilized so that population base can be added to the remaining House districts.
At the U.S. Congressional level, he expects Texas to gain three or four congressional seats.
Paddie thanked the crowd, and voters of the district for allowing him to serve in the Texas Legislature.
“I cherish that opportunity to serve,” he said.