Shortly after the 88th Legislative Session began, Republican State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) filed legislation seeking to put Texas on a path to eliminating the property tax. Cain has been a Taxpayer Champion in every session he has served, according to the Fiscal Responsibility Index.
Several bills have already been filed to address the increasing property tax burdens on Texas taxpayers, but ultimately, Cain’s legislation seeks to use 90% of current and future budget surpluses to do what is called “buying down” the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) portion of the property tax until it reaches zero.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) has supported this approach in previous legislative sessions.
Similarly, Republican State Reps. Ellen Troxclair (Austin), Matt Shaheen (Plano), and Matt Schaefer (Tyler) have filed legislation that also seeks to do the same as Cain’s bill, just via a slightly different process. All of these potential options would put Texas on a path to eliminate the school M&O portion of the property tax.
These significant approaches would provide tax relief that Texas taxpayers would feel almost immediately—contrary to the “slow the growth” strategy the Legislature has chosen up until this point—and would simultaneously ensure that the relief is lasting.
Most bills filed will never actually make it through the legislative process. Using previous legislative sessions as a guide, Cain’s legislation does seem to have some bipartisan support, at least in the Texas House of Representatives.
Cain’s bill is a duplicate of legislation filed in both the 87th Legislature’s (2021) second special (House Bill 122) and third special legislation sessions (House Bill 90) by Republican State Rep. Tom Oliverson (Cypress).
Notably, those bills included a decent amount of support from other House lawmakers. In total, 55 House lawmakers (including two Democrats) supported HB 122. In that special session, the bill never moved beyond the House Appropriations Committee, largely due to the legislative paralysis imbued on the House when a majority of Democrat lawmakers busted quorum in efforts to stifle election integrity legislation.
Similarly, HB 90 boasted 27 House lawmakers in support. While that bill made it all the way to the House Calendars Committee, it was never placed on a calendar for the overall House’s consideration, thereby ending its prospects in the third-called special legislative session.
Thus far in the current legislative session, Oliverson has not filed the same legislation. Instead, he has filed what appears to be a weaker version of House Bill 174 (which is the same as legislation he filed in the 87th Legislative Session that never made it out of the House Appropriations Committee). Its legislative prospects this session are yet unclear.
Which Approach Will Be Prioritized?
Undoubtedly, lawmakers will address property taxes in this legislative session. The lengthy list of bills filed and the rhetoric many lawmakers and statewide elected officials are using around the issue certainly point to the urgency.
The question remains, however: Which approach will they use?
As we have written previously, both legislative chambers have included property tax relief in their respective appropriation bills. In the Senate, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has seemed to favor an approach of allocating a portion of the budget surplus (significantly lower than 90%) to buy down the M&O portion of the tax while also increasing the homestead exemption. In the House, Speaker Dade Phelan has indicated he favors appraisal reform.
TFR has indicated that though both approaches might be beneficial to some, they lack the impact needed to provide actual property tax relief to all Texas taxpayers and neglect the idea of eliminating the immoral tax altogether.
We agree with the Texas comptroller: lawmakers face a historic opportunity. It is an opportunity that should not be squandered on the pet projects of individual lawmakers, but rather used to provide actual relief to taxpayers and a path to the elimination of a tax that prevents Texans from ever actually owning their homes. This is the reason we introduced the Texas Prosperity Plan.
What Is Next?
Lawmakers have until Friday, March 10, to file legislation before the bill filing deadline. Unless the issue is made an emergency item by the governor, legislation will not begin moving through the legislative process until after that time. Your elected officials need to hear from you.
How can you help? 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 future prosperity if we amplify our voices loudly enough.