Last Friday, Texas taxpayers had a chance to watch the one and only debate between former U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D) and incumbent Governor Greg Abbott (R) before the November general election. The two addressed several issues important to Texans, including border security, school safety, abortion, gun rights, grid security, and property tax relief.
Both candidates had a few interactions regarding property taxes, which we will discuss below.
First, O’Rourke was asked by the moderator, “How would you provide long-term property tax relief?” Here was Beto’s response:
So, there are quite a few concerning things about his answer.
First, his idea that expanding Medicaid would provide any kind of meaningful property tax relief is a joke. If you look at what makes up the vast majority of property tax bills, it is the school Maintenance & Operations (M&O) and Investments & Sinking (I&S) portions of the overall property tax formula. If there is going to be any kind of meaningful tax relief, it would be by lessening that burden from local governments.
His second point on moving more of the burden to the state is actually not bad. This is what Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) is proposing in our Texas Prosperity Plan, but he mentions the state and local governments splitting the cost 50-50. This approach would also provide an insignificant amount of tax relief for homeowners.
The third point he made was that he wants corporations to pay more. This simply is not a viable solution for Texas. The way Texas thrives is by lessening burdens on both homeowners and businesses and by cutting the size and scope of government.
Abbott was asked the same question. Here was his response:
Abbott’s response was not surprising, as he is sticking with his promise to “use at least half” of the $27 billion surplus to provide property tax relief. TFR thinks this is certainly the superior strategy, but we would argue it does not go far enough.
The reality is that the surplus is not the government’s money but rather the taxpayers’ money. We advocate that he use the entire surplus on property tax relief, and if the government is unable to fund other areas of the budget, then they do what all of us have to do: make budget cuts. We will continue to encourage Abbott to increase his promise of using half of the surplus to 100% of the surplus as the legislative session begins in January 2023.
As the debate continued, the moderator asked Abbott a question about previous attempts at property tax relief. We got this bombshell of a response from Abbott:
Abbott’s first few responses really displayed how tone-deaf he is to the reality of property tax burdens in Texas. He first advocated that the homestead exemption increase (from $25k to $40k) has lowered homeowners’ taxes. This is not true. What he means is it has lowered their property tax revenue or it has “slowed the growth” of their insanely high property tax bills. No homeowner that TFR has spoken with has experienced their bill being lowered due to the increase in the homestead exemption.
The same is true for the second comment, when he mentions the previous M&O compression provided in the “historic property tax relief” of 2019. This too did not lower tax bills; it has only “slowed the growth” of them. It is important to realize that this has been the ongoing strategy for Texas politicians: gaslighting taxpayers into thinking they have received relief when they have not.
His last statement is what is mind-blowing, though. He said his goal was to “eliminate school property taxes, to let Texans actually own their home.” This is a huge deal, as this is what TFR and our subscribers have been shouting for over a year! What does this mean? It means our message of REAL property tax relief has made it to the top office in Texas. We just got the governor to say he wants to eliminate property taxes! We know this is just campaign rhetoric, but this is still significant. A year ago, Abbott would not have even thought about saying something so controversial.
WE ARE WINNING!
Now it is incumbent upon us to hold him to this statement. TFR is under no illusions that politicians keep their campaign promises. Their feet must be held to the fire, and they must be held accountable for their statements. We will hold Abbott accountable for this statement, and we demand that he put this specific goal in his legislative session priorities. TFR suggests that taxpayers who want him to eliminate property taxes call his office and demand this is added to his legislative priorities next session.
So, what else can you do to get involved?
The next legislative session is set to begin in January 2023. Your elected officials need to hear from you.
Go read the Texas Prosperity Plan for yourself and voice your support for REAL property tax relief by signing up to support the TPP. You can also sign up for The Fiscal Note to stay updated on all fiscal issues that affect Texans, especially our broken property tax system. We CAN get real tax relief if we amplify our voices loudly enough.