It’s a common belief that property taxes are growing at rates that are simply astronomical, placing greater and greater strain on hardworking Texans. As a report by Americans for Prosperity – Texas indicates, the issue is front and center with Texans demanding relief from the exorbitant taxation—something the Texas Senate looks poised to do with the passage of SB1, a relief valve that would raise the Homestead Exemption.
While a positive step in reducing the impact of the radical rise in taxes, it would do little to attack the root of the problem of the rise themselves. Without protections any property tax relief offered could be short-lived.
To attack the issue head on, freshman State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) introduced SB182, a taxpayer protection bill that would mandate a rollback tax rate election if city, county, or special district property tax revenues grew too much from the prior year, excluding new construction. Currently Texas law forces taxpayers to petition to have an election to lower excessive tax rates.
“It is time to recognize the obvious that property tax bills cannot continue to grow twice as fast as Texan’s paychecks,” Bettencourt said during a hearing on Monday.
Sen. Paul Bettencourt knows property taxes; he served as the Harris County Tax Assessor and Collector.
His legislation – SB182 – would lower the roll-back rate (the rate at which local taxing entities are subject to a tax roll-back election) from 8% to 4%. It also eliminates the need for a petition-gathering process to get the necessary signatures to put the tax rollback on the ballot. The rollback is automatic.
The measure is a common sense reform. Local elected officials should be able to make their case to the voters if the officials want to increase their property taxes over 4%. But local government associations and some of their officials are opposing this legislation.
Local government entities – lead by the Texas Municipal League and the Texas Association of Counties – are fighting this common-sense taxpayer protection. Why? Because they don’t want to ask voters when they raise your taxes over 8%.
These facts shed more light on the need for SB 182 and why organizations representing local taxing entities don’t want it passed. Even worse, many of the organizations will use public tax dollars to lobby against the legislation. They’ve already arrayed their forces against SB 182 and other legislation that would force them to be more accountable to voters.
***UPDATE: Recently SB 182 has been removed from the agenda for hearings this week due to the fact that the Comptroller has not been able to determine the fiscal impact the legislation would have. In other words, the Comptroller believes that localities are currently raising taxes beyond what their constituents would allow- highlighting the need for the legislation.