The Rat’s Nest of Property-Tax Reform in Texas

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Ready for more property-tax reform jabber? If not, well, too bad. - DANIEL MAYER VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Nobody likes paying more property taxes on his home, right?

What if, instead of ponying up more loot year after year, which has become a statewide custom, residential property owners paid fewer taxes to their local appraisal district? That would be what constituents want, yeah?

What’s stopping it from happening? Politics.

Of course.

Of freaking course.

Though higher property taxes have been a scrooge to taxpayers for years – Texans pay the sixth highest ad valorem taxes in the country – legislative reform didn’t come until Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pegged the issue as his second priority heading into the 2017 Legislature. Shortly after Patrick’s decree, Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) filed Senate Bill 2, which the lawmaker said would finally give homeowners a breather.

The Senate passed SB2 in March by an 18-12 tally, but the bill, which would’ve handcuffed the ability of cities and counties to levy higher rates of property taxes, bogged down in the House for a litany of factors.

SB2 author Bettencourt took a brunt of the criticism from folks, such as outgoing San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, for relying on out-of-context figures to try to sail SB2 through the Lege. During an irritable Senate Finance committee hearing on property taxes, which showcased humankind at its angelic best, critics said SB2 circumvented the crux issue of the state’s broken public school finance system that contributes to Texas’ property-tax problem. At one point, reported the Texas Tribune, finance committee chair Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) said out loud during the six-hour sparring session, “This is a rough crowd.”

A retooled bill eventually expired in the calendars committee, but now property-tax overhaul is back via the special legislative session that Gov. Greg Abbott announced earlier this month. House speaker Joe Straus, who last week called Abbott’s special session “manure,” has been a naysayer of lawmakers’ current efforts at property-tax fixes.

“Nobody can be serious about property-tax relief while consistently reducing the state’s share of education funding,” Straus was quoted as saying in an Express-News op-ed authored by Brian Gottardy, North East Independent School District superintendent.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Abbott signed four smaller-potatoes bills related to property-tax reform, including three authored by Bettencourt.
"Any day that you can implement common sense reforms to the property tax process that give taxpayers more options, better information, and more clarity in the overall process is a good day," said Senator Bettencourt in a prepared statement. "This package of bills represents another step forward as we continue our effort to bring about meaningful property tax reform and relief for all Texas taxpayers."

"While we did pass several bills that included useful taxpayer tools and appraisal process protections, Governor Abbott is absolutely correct when he says there is more work to be done," continued Senator Bettencourt. "Property tax bills have been rising must faster than Texans ability to pay them. As appraised values go up, property tax rates should come down. Taxpayers expect to have a vote on this critical issue, and SB 2 is on the call for the Special Session for that exact reason!"



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