What Texas Taxpayers Should Expect Out of Abbott’s State of the State Address

February 15, 2023
Jeramy Kitchen
Budget Surplus, Greg Abbott, Property Tax, State of the State Address

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is set to give his State of the State address on Thursday evening and lay out his vision for the ongoing 88th Legislative Session and beyond. It is widely expected he will name specific policy issues as emergency items, thus giving license to the state Legislature to get to work on them, ahead of the bill filing deadline by which they are bound to consider any additional legislation.

The number of named emergency items has varied over Abbott’s tenure as governor, but his list of emergency items sets the tone for many lawmakers, including leadership in both legislative chambers as he uses his proverbial “bully pulpit.”

Though we can only speculate as to what will be included on the list, comments over the last year or so provide insight as to what Abbott might want the Legislature to consider. Some of these items include things like “parental empowerment” or school choice in the form of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), continued support and funding for the ongoing Operation Lone Star or states’ border security efforts, and property tax relief.

Biggest Property Tax Cut in Texas History

Last summer, Abbott announced his support for providing taxpayers with the “biggest property tax cut in the history of Texas.” If you do the math, accounting for inflation, about $20 billion would need to be allocated for such a thing to qualify.

A few weeks after the announcement, at the sole gubernatorial debate ahead of the 2022 general election, Abbott said this in response to a question about property taxes:

“My goal is to eliminate the school property tax that is imposed in the state of Texas so that people can genuinely own their own home without being taxed out of it.”

Shortly after Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar provided his updated Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), which included a larger surplus figure of more than $32 billion, Abbott doubled down on his support for using at least half to provide taxpayers with tangible property tax relief.

The Legislature unveiled the base budget proposals a few weeks ago, and though they include $15 billion in property tax relief, the numbers actually show that a significant amount of it is used to maintain previously allocated relief. An additional $3 billion is used for a potential homestead exemption increase, which—as we have said several times before—is not the most effective method to deliver relief.

It is more important than ever that Texas taxpayers keep up the pressure, to ensure that Abbott stays true to his word and that lawmakers take those words to heart. After all, it’s their money!

If Abbott does not include property tax relief—and perhaps more importantly, implore the Legislature to put Texas on a path to eliminate the school maintenance and operations (M&O) portion of the property tax this session—his previous words represent nothing more than a hollow promise, and Texas taxpayers should be concerned. Some lawmakers have already filed legislation to do both. His own political party includes such an approach in its own platform. There is no excuse.

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