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Texas House Gives Initial Approval to Its Property Tax Relief Approach

April 13, 2023
Jeramy Kitchen
Appraisal Reform, Morgan Meyer, Property Tax, Tony Tinderholt

On Thursday, the Texas House of Representatives considered legislation seeking to lower the appraisal caps from the current threshold of 10 percent as it applies to homestead property down to 5 percent, while allowing the cap to apply to all real property. The legislation also seeks to provide for the additional compression of the school maintenance and operations (M&O) portion of the property tax, notably more than double the compression being offered in leading Texas Senate proposals.

The legislation is authored by Republican State Rep. Morgan Meyer (Dallas) and is a named legislative priority of Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont).

In the lead-up to the House’s consideration of the legislation, they adopted a calendar rule requiring that all amendments to the legislation be pre-filed on Wednesday. Perhaps one of the most anticipated of the pre-filed amendments was one authored by TFR Taxpayer Champion, Republican State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (Arlington).

Tinderholt’s amendment sought to increase the amount of money to be used for the purpose of compression of the school M&O portion of the property tax to $20 billion, believing this amount would truly qualify as the biggest property tax cut in Texas history, as promised by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on multiple occasions.

Tinderholt’s amendment was ultimately unsuccessful, as it fell victim to a motion to table by Meyer with a vote of 118-20.

The following lawmakers joined Tinderholt in support of his amendment: Republican State Reps. Cecil Bell Jr. (Mongolia), Briscoe Cain (Deer Park), Tom Craddick (Midland), Mark Dorazio (San Antonio), Gary Gates (Richmond), Brian Harrison (Midlothian), Carrie Isaac (Wimberley), Four Price (Arlington), Matt Schaefer (Tyler), Nate Schatzline (Fort Worth), Mike Schofield (Katy), Bryan Slaton (Royse City), Valoree Swanson (Spring), Steve Toth (The Woodlands), Cody Vasut (Angleton), and Terry Wilson (Georgetown); and Democrat State Reps. Terry Meza (Irving), Christina Morales (Houston), and Ana-Maria Ramos (Richardson).

In total, 60 Republicans voted against the effort, despite their party’s state platform including multiple planks in support of such a thing:

91. Property Tax Relief: We support these incremental steps toward the ultimate abolition of property tax:

  • Dedicate surpluses to buy down school district maintenance and operation property tax…

76. State Fiscal Restraint: … “Any budget surplus shall be applied to property tax relief.”

2022 Republican Party of Texas Platform

The legislation survived all attempts at amendment and went on to pass its initial consideration by a vote of 140 in support and 9 in opposition (all Democrat lawmakers). It will be considered one final time on Friday, where it is assumed to pass along similar margins before being sent to the Texas Senate.

The Larger Picture

The Texas Senate unanimously passed its property tax relief package more than three weeks ago, and only earlier this week did those bills get referred to House committees. Thus far, none have been set for hearings.

In the lead-up to the House’s consideration of its package on Thursday, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was vocal about the inferiority of such an approach. In a press conference alongside Republican State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) where he was discussing mental health expansion to primarily rural areas of the state, he responded to questions about the House’s property tax efforts by saying, “We can negotiate on just about everything, but I do not negotiate on bad math.”

Patrick went on to say, “There’s a handful of people who want the appraisal cap, and the speaker’s one of them and he’s sticking to it. Every once in a while, you have to acknowledge maybe you were wrong. I have.” As the press conference continued, Patrick said, “If they send a bill over, we’re not doing appraisal caps. Period. End of story. Because they mean nothing to seniors and they mean nothing, essentially, to any homeowner in the state.”

Upon the conclusion of consideration of both House Bill 2 and House Joint Resolution 1 as a property tax relief package, House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) commented, “That too should send a message, Mr. Meyer.” Undoubtedly, this was in response to Patrick’s jabs at a lack of support and popularity of the House’s approach.

Where Does All of This Leave Taxpayers?

In short, it is unclear. While elected leadership in each legislative chamber continues to squabble over the menial property tax relief provided in each of their property tax relief packages, neither meets the criteria of “the biggest property tax cut in Texas history” that Abbott has promised on multiple occasions.

The reality is that lawmakers have a historic opportunity to not only provide the biggest property tax cut in Texas history but also to put Texas on a path to the elimination of the tax altogether.

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