Speaker Dade Phelan touches on mental health, property tax and other concerns

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, August 23, 2023

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Property tax relief, an investment in mental health services and a veteran’s facility in Southeast Texas are some of the major topics Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan touched on during an area

chamber of commerce luncheon on Tuesday.

Phelan, who is under a gag order from the Texas Senate and Lieutenant Governor, spoke in general terms on the impeachment of the attorney general of the State of Texas. He did not mention names.

A special session was ordered to deal with property tax relief issue. Texas Proposition 4 will be on the November ballot. The proposition is looking to increase homestead tax exemption from $40,000 to $100,000, authorize the state legislature to limit the annual appraisal increase on non-residential property, exclude appropriations made to increase state education funding from the state appropriations limit, among other items, according to Ballotpedia.

This leads to appraisal reform.

“But if you don’t talk about appraisal reform, and how that works, then eventually any relief you give will be eaten up by raising your prices. And your homestead is capped at 10 percent every year so you can’t go up more than 10 percent each year,” Phelan said. “Each year, the opposite for anyone else could be 100 percent it could be 200 percent it could be 300 percent. And we’ve heard those horror stories.

“They can’t plan for the future because they never will know what their property tax bill might be in the next cycle, and it’s like getting a letter from the IRS. Business owners now have a worry,” he said.

Proposition 4 will be on the ballot, and Phelan expects it to pass overwhelmingly, he said.

Phelan acknowledges the need for more mental health services. He recalled how former Speaker of the House Tom Craddick came to him in 2021 and said he’d raised $40 million for the mental health hospital in Midland on land he donated. He asked Phelan if he could help him get another $40 million from the state budget to build the $80 million mental health hospital to service the entire north Texas area.

Phelan was able to help, then Craddick’s wife sent Phelan’s wife a thank you letter for help with the hospital.

That made Phelan’s wife ask him, “where’s our mental health hospital?”

This foreshadows an upcoming investment the state’s making and an announcement to be made in the future.

Phelan said there is $6 million that will be passed to Baptist Hospital in Dallas for “much needed outpatient clinic and renovation to the clinic as well as expansion of a clinic.

“There’s more,” he said. “A $64 million investment in an inpatient hospital to provide 72 beds here in Southeast Texas for mental patients.”

The news brought applause from the 600 attendees to the event as Phelan said mental health has become more mainstream and is no different than having a heart attack and breaking a leg — “it’s something we diagnose, it’s something we talk about and it’s something you have to treat but you also have to have facilities and the workforce to do it.”

“And so finally, instead of going to Houston and Austin and parts beyond, we’re going to have that opportunity right here in Southeast Texas.”

Phelan has been a champion of bringing a Veterans Administration facility to Southeast Texas and has lobbied for that.

The current VA facility in Beaumont is old, dilapidated and floods, he said, adding there needs to be something better so veterans don’t have to go Houston for every single procedure.

He said he is fairly confident there will be an announcement coming soon about a new VA facility in Southeast Texas.

Phelan didn’t back down from controversy as he alluded to some wrongdoing that goes back to May 2022; something that’s never happened in the history in the state of Texas, they expelled one of their own members.

The unnamed member allegedly got a minor intoxicated and had sex with her, he said.

“I’m not gonna go into details about that. But it was so disgusting that he was expelled from the Texas House of Representatives. It’s never happened before,” he said.

This person’s political contributors are reportedly the ones running ads against Phelan, he said.

— Written by Mary Meaux