After Governor Abbott used the threat of his veto power to try and force the House and Senate to come to an agreement on property tax relief over the weekend (to no avail, despite having vetoed 76 bills), the battle for property tax relief in Austin continues.
The Texas Senate appears to be doubling down on its opposition to property tax relief through compression, House Speaker Dade Phelan has announced a new select committee to “study” sustainable property tax relief, and the governor once again comes out in support of (eventual) school Maintenance & Operation (M&O) property tax elimination.
Senate Bill 26 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), the Texas Senate’s NEW property tax relief plan, was filed on Tuesday. The legislation was filed, voted out of committee, voted out of the Senate, and sent to the House all in one day (another example that the Legislature can, in fact, move legislation quite quickly when it wants to). This new Senate plan aims to provide 10 cents in M&O compression, a $100,000 homestead exemption, and $2.47 million in franchise tax exemption.
Despite claims from Bettencourt and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick that SB 26 is the largest tax cut in the history of Texas with $18 billion in relief, a quick review of the legislation itself proves that claim to be inaccurate. SB 26 only provides about $12.7 billion in new property tax relief for the biennium, per the fiscal note, with the remaining $5.3 billion coming from already dedicated money in the state budget to continue property tax relief efforts from the 2019 legislative session.
On the same day the Senate made moves on their new property tax relief proposal, Speaker Phelan announced the formation of a new “Select Study Committee On Sustainable Property Tax Relief,” which will study and report on different approaches to property tax relief and the feasibility of M&O elimination. The committee is made up of 13 House lawmakers and three members of the public—each of whom have “backgrounds related to this subject matter,” according to Speaker Phelan.
It is disappointing, however, that the elected members of the committee are made up of House lawmakers who are themselves abysmal when it comes to fiscal responsibility and fighting for Texas taxpayers. The committee is chaired by State Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas), who received a 36% on TFR’s report card for the 88th Legislative Session. The committee vice chair is Democrat State Rep. Shawn Thierry (Houston), with a score of 25%. In fact, not a single member of the committee received a passing grade on this session’s report card:
- Chairman: State Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas): 36 (F)
- Vice Chairman: State Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston): 25 (F)
- State Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio): 37 (F)
- State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock): 48 (F)
- State Rep. Mano DeAyala (R-Houston): 57 (F)
- State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin): 17 (F)
- State Rep. Janie Lopez (R-San Benito): 43 (F)
- State Rep. Candy Noble (R-Lucas): 63 (D)
- State Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo): 30 (F)
- State Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple): 41 (F)
- State Rep. Ellen Troxclair (R-Lakeway): 68 (D)
- State Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie): 17 (F)
- State Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston): 18 (F)
This does not leave Texas taxpayers with much hope for any meaningful tax policy recommendations.
Of course, taxpayers across the state and many statewide organizations already know the answer to the question of what sustainable property tax relief looks like: ELIMINATION.
Even Governor Abbott continues to support this idea, despite resistance in the Legislature. On Tuesday, a spokesperson from his office is quoted as saying that the governor’s goal is to “put Texans on a pathway to eliminate their school M&O property taxes, and the best way to do that is to devote all property tax relief to cutting property tax rates.”
Cutting property tax rates is compression, and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility agrees with the governor that compression is the most efficient route to property tax elimination. Hopefully, the governor sticks to his guns.
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