The Petulant Children Squabbling Over Property Tax Relief

May 11, 2023
Jeramy Kitchen
88th Legislative Session, Budget Surplus, Property Tax

If you are a Texas taxpayer and hoping to get tangible property tax relief as an outcome of the ongoing 88th Legislative Session, you might be disappointed.

Not only does it look as if nearly no real property tax relief will be had, but elected leaders in both legislative chambers have resorted to childish memes, attack advertisements from third parties, and social media cringe in an attempt to defend their pet property tax relief packages.

To make matters even worse, as we have opined many times before, both chambers are using disingenuous numbers, or “fuzzy math,” to promote their respective approaches. All of this is to the detriment of Texas taxpayers.

Where Are the Adults?

Though the childish squabbling has gone on for the better part of the ongoing legislative session, sparring over the superiority of each chamber’s prioritized property tax relief packages really reached a fever pitch on April 25.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan posted the following to Twitter:

Just a few short hours later, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded with a post of his own:

Patrick’s reference to “California Dade” primarily resides in Phelan’s property tax approach related to appraisal caps, something Patrick has recently pointed to as a policy failure in California.

On April 30, former President Donald Trump weighed in on Truth Social, almost assuredly at the request of Patrick himself, and Patrick shared as much on Twitter the next day:

Just a few days later, Phelan shared an advertisement that included captured audio and video of Patrick talking about appraisal creep and previous efforts to lower appraisal caps:

Patrick responded with a few memes.

In the midst of all of this, the legislative clock continues to wind down. Patrick’s prioritized effort—focused on homestead exemption increases, minor additions to school maintenance and operations compression, and a business personal property tax exemption—passed the Texas Senate in late March and was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on April 10. Thus far, none of them have received a public hearing.

Similarly, Phelan’s prioritized effort—focused on lowering the existing 10 % appraisal cap on homestead properties to 5 % and applying it to all properties, while simultaneously providing for more than double the M&O compression of the Senate—passed the Texas House in mid-April and was referred to the Senate Local Government Committee on May 2. Thus far, none of them have received a public hearing.

With less than three weeks left in the legislative session and impending deadlines, the prospects of thwarting the ongoing stalemate seem less likely as every day passes.

Potentially complicating things even further is the absence of Gov. Greg Abbott in the discussion. In the lead-up to the ongoing legislative session, Abbott indicated he supported eliminating the school M&O portion of the property tax and providing Texans with “the biggest property tax cut in Texas history.” He doubled down on the tax cut rhetoric in his inaugural address in January and again at his State of the State address in February. Since then, he has primarily been silent on which legislative approach to property tax relief he favors.

In fact, the only time Abbott has opined on the subject was in mid-April, when he took to Twitter in support of all of the approaches:

What are taxpayers to do?

Demand Better

It seems like during every legislative session, taxpayers are promised that tax relief will come their way; much to their chagrin, any relief that would be had is immediately eaten up by appraisal creep, inflation, and other factors.

This legislative session provided a historic opportunity, one that not only could have provided tangible property tax relief to Texas taxpayers but also a path to the elimination of the property tax altogether. Lawmakers had the ability to return a $32.7+ billion budget surplus to its rightful owners: taxpayers. Instead of taking advantage of that opportunity, lawmakers seem hellbent on squandering it, focusing instead on pet projects, growing government, and providing additional corporate welfare.

As taxpayers, you should demand better. Demand your elected officials and leadership in both legislative chambers get serious about providing real property tax relief and a path to true prosperity for future generations of Texans. Do not let them squander this opportunity!

Concerned taxpayers may contact their lawmakers here.

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility relies on the support of private donors across the Lone Star State in order to promote fiscal responsibility and pro-taxpayer government in Texas. Please consider supporting our efforts! Thank you!

Get The Fiscal Note, our free weekly roll-up on all the current events that could impact your wallet. Subscribe today!