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Republican and Democratic senators agree there's a problem behind political standoff in Austin

State Senators Paul Bettencourt and Royce West say there is a problem -- but give different reasons for it.

AUSTIN, Texas — Dueling plans on how to best give tax relief to taxpayers have caused a rare public dispute among the state’s top political leaders. 

The disagreement forced a standoff between the Texas House and Senate. Speaker Dade Phelan and the House support something called compression. It would cut school districts’ property tax rates. And reduce what the public owes.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate want to go further than that, and also increase the homestead exemption. Gov. Greg Abbott supports the House version.

During the Special Session last Tuesday, both chambers passed their versions. After the House passed its proposal, it promptly adjourned for the session. Leaving the Senate to either pass the House bill or vote it down. The Senate is still in session. Patrick doesn’t support the House plan.

Democratic and Republican state Senators see this stalemate as a problem. However, they give different reasons for and ways to solve it. Both were guests on this week’s Inside Texas Politics.

Houston Republican State Sen. Paul Bettencourt says it’s because of differing opinions, and that the main consideration should be on taxpayers. “The problem here is that everybody can have an opinion, but at the end of the day, what matters is Texas taxpayers,” said Bettencourt on Inside Texas Politics.

However, State Sen. Royce West, a Dallas Democrat, says it’s caused by, and is a problem for, the Republican Party. 

“The Republican Party, the leadership has to decide which is the best proposal,” said West. 

He went on to say that Democrats have input into the process, but any decisions will be made by the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker, both Republicans.

West said he doesn’t believe that Lieutenant Governor Patrick will abandon his idea to increase the homestead exemption. He added that many in the Senate also believe that’s a good idea.

Bettencourt said he thinks increasing the homestead exemption is good for the public because it is permanent, and that the House should return to Austin and continue working.

Bettencourt points out that there is a way for the House to return to the Capitol - although it has adjourned. 

“Well, there is something called restore," he said. "They can come back... there’s always something.”

West also discussed school vouchers. He said he thinks the effort will fail in special sessions because of rural legislators who opposed it in the regular session. 

“They didn’t buy it then, and I don’t think they’ll buy it now," West said. "They won’t buy it in special sessions, regardless of the number of special sessions we have."

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