The 88th Legislative Session Is Nearly Here
It is that time again. An odd-numbered year has begun, so we are just days away from the 88th Legislative Session beginning. So much has occurred since the last time the Legislature met, so there will be a lot of ground to cover this go-around.
If we look back at 2021, we were still in the middle of peak hysteria regarding the COVID pandemic. Most of the big issues had to do with executive overreach, mask mandates, and COVID policy. This time, there are quite a few new topics that have surfaced to the top of the priority list. This article aims to bring into focus what we believe will be the top issues state lawmakers will face this legislative session.
Property tax reform has been an issue for decades and the main reason is that the Legislature has yet to provide any significant relief to Texans. Despite the fact that both House and Senate lawmakers continue to try to gaslight Texans into believing they have received historic property tax relief, most taxpayers know this is a lie by simply looking at their property tax bill.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) has made the elimination of property taxes a top priority for the Texas Legislature as a part of our Texas Prosperity Plan. After decades of taxpayers demanding relief, Texans have finally had enough and are demanding this immoral system simply be eliminated. The list of problems associated with property taxes is nearly endless, whether they are problems with appraisals, local governments’ deceptively marketing rate cuts, or a lack of movement from the Legislature on meaningful reform. Texans are simply tired of renting their property from the government.
In his debate with Beto, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that his goal was to eliminate school property taxes so people can actually own their homes. This is something we want to keep in the forefront of taxpayers’ minds as Abbott gets ready to announce his legislative priorities just a few weeks into the upcoming legislative session. We must hold him accountable for his rhetoric, and we must see him follow through on his statement.
Abbott and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have both said that they would like to see half of the $27 billion surplus be used for property tax relief; however, they seem to differing opinions on what defines “half.” In Patrick’s latest interview with Spectrum News, he seems to define “half” as “half of the amount of the spending cap,” or roughly a measly $6 billion and a homestead exemption. If this is the solution that is passed, TFR can tell taxpayers they will continue to have rising property taxes for years to come. What will come of property taxes? We will just have to see how the session unfolds. There are dozens of bills filed on the matter, and time will tell which receives the support of lawmakers.
Banning Taxpayer-funded Lobbying
Another long-awaited policy that has been attempted multiple times in the last few legislative sessions is the banning taxpayer-funded lobbying. This issue was a previous Republican party legislative priority and one that was supported by Republican voters on a ballot proposal by nearly 95%. It is clear that Texans do not want the practice to continue. Local government hiring corporate lobbyists to advocate against the taxpayers that pay their salaries is a major conflict of interest, and Texans want it to end. Last legislative session there was a version of legislation passed out of the Senate that was killed by former Republican State Rep. Chris Paddie to spite then-State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston). (Paddie delayed the hearing of the bill to Mayes’ birthday, a veiled slap in the face to Mayes’ efforts to end the practice.) Middleton, now a newly elected state senator, has taken up the banner again. Will the practice finally end, or will it be drowned out by all of the other issues that have taken the spotlight?
Banning taxpayer-funded lobbying did not make the Republican priorities this cycle, mainly due to many of the social issues that conservatives deemed as a priority (gender modification, pornography in schools, etc). Fiscal responsibility is at the center of anything a government does, and a government can only do what it is given the money to do. This is why fiscal responsibility should always take precedence over social issues, not because it is more important but because tax money is what enables the government to grow and infringe on the rights and lives of its citizens. A well-funded government has everything it needs to crush the rights of citizens. This is why this practice must end. We must make it difficult for local governments to fund themselves, which enables them to further infringe on the property rights of Texans everywhere.
As we have reported many times recently, Chapter 313 tax abatements officially expired at the end of 2022. This was the largest corporate welfare program in Texas, totaling more than $11 billion in tax abatements statewide. Conservatives cheered as we ended the program, yet the Austin Uniparty has decided they need to create a new corporate welfare program to replace it. So, back to the battle stations it is for conservatives. The latest rumors are that they will create a similar program without renewable energy being part of the program. Corporate welfare is corporate welfare; it is always wrong, and it is always irresponsible. It doesn’t matter what type of business benefits from them; stealing money from individual Texans to give to multinational corporations is immoral, and the practice should remain dead.
Texas has a massively bloated budget. TFR’s Texas Prosperity Plan lays out our goal of a “No Growth” budget. The old metric of population + inflation growth was a great reform, but it is no longer relevant in an inflationary environment like the one we are currently in. The spending cap this cycle would allow our bloated budget to grow another 12.3%. For a government that is already over-budget, increasing the budget by more than 10% is far from conservative. Freezing the state budget at current levels is not only wise as we head into a major economic downturn, but it will also assist in eliminating property taxes by increasing surpluses through spending restraint. It is imperative that the Legislature start reducing the size of government if we plan on having a sustainable model. Spending more is growing the government, and cutting spending is shrinking the government. We call on all lawmakers that call themselves conservative to advocate for a “No Growth” budget and allow surplus dollars to benefit taxpayers all over the state.
We plead with all of our subscribers to stay engaged and demand your lawmakers govern the way they campaigned—as conservatives. Sign up for vote notices to stay in the loop on everything TFR will be scoring this legislative session.
What else can you do?
Go read the Texas Prosperity Plan for yourself and voice your support for banning taxpayer-funded lobbying, eliminating the property tax, and freezing state spending by signing up to support the TPP. Sign up for The Fiscal Note to stay up to date on all fiscal issues that affect Texans, especially our broken property tax system. We CAN put Texas on a path to fiscal sanity and prosperity if we amplify our voices loudly enough.