North Texas Sen. Jane Nelson Talks Property Taxes, Teacher Pay and Voter Purge

AUSTIN — The Dallas Morning News sat down this week with Flower Mound Sen. Jane Nelson for a wide-ranging interview on her legislative priorities for the session.As the head of the Senate Finance Committee, which holds the purse strings, Nelson fills one of the most influential roles in the Legislature. She represents more than 800,000 North Texans in Senate District 12, which stretches from Fort Worth to Frisco in Denton and Tarrant Counties. A Republican, Nelson has served in the Senate since 1993. She was the first woman to chair the Finance Committee and, this year, became the first woman to gavel the Senate in on the opening day of a legislative session. She is sponsoring two major bills this session: one that would give every Texas teacher a $5,000 pay raise and another that would create a higher education mental health consortium.Here's what she had to say on some key issues. A full transcript, edited for brevity, can be read below.Property tax reliefQ: Would you vote for Senate Bill 2, which would cap property tax revenue, today as it's written?Nelson: Probably to move the process along. I don’t think it is what we’ll end up with. And I’m not sure that it needs to come to the floor today. We are very serious — and I’m talking about House, Senate, governor — we need to do something about property taxes. And I think this Senate Bill 2 started the discussion. ... But now, we need to look at what’s going to work. So, would I vote for it? I don’t like being pinned down. But we need to move forward with our conversation about how it’s all going to fit together. And I’m concerned about where we’re going on education funding. We got a lot of work to do.Teacher pay raisesQ: Where in the process is Senate Bill 3, which would give every classroom teacher a $5,000 raise?Nelson: [There will be a committee] hearing Monday. ...You’ve got to pay your teachers more. And I’ve heard all the arguments: Are we giving bad teachers [raises]? Well, if they’re a bad teacher, then they shouldn’t be teaching. ...We need to be competitive. I want the sharpest people teaching our kids. Nobody thinks they’re going to get rich teaching, but we also need to pay them a living wage and it’s horrible. We’re not paying our teachers what they need to be paid.Q: Do you support merit-pay increases for teachers?Nelson: I don’t oppose it, but there are a lot of problems. I think the answer is probably to do it on a grant type thing. ...We can do teacher pay and some merit pay.Voter fraudQ: Is David Whitley going to be confirmed as Secretary of State?Nelson: I don’t know. I don’t know. I think we would have voted on him if he was going to be. But I haven’t counted votes.School safetyNelson: I have talked to some people in our schools who have said the kids figure out the metal detectors real easily. There are some schools that probably need to rethink some vulnerabilities. But that is not the answer.  Continue reading...

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