Newly elected State Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) held a town hall on Saturday, April 18th. He spent the first half of the event giving an update on what he is currently working on in the legislature, as well as what he has accomplished. Among the things mentioned were protecting gun rights, authoring the Down Syndrome Information Act, and working to improve roads in the Permian Basin.
Following Landgraf’s presentation, he opened up the floor for Q&A. While questions were raised regarding a variety of topics, most centered on tax policy. Several attendees expressed concern over the different taxes each chamber is targeting for cuts. While the Senate proposal involves both business and property tax relief, the House has taken a different approach. Rep. Bonnen (R-Angleton) proposed a reduction in business and sales taxes, failing to address property tax reform altogether.
Landgraf supports the House approach. He believes it would be hard for the state to guarantee lower property tax rates since “property taxes are mostly determined by local entities.” He did not comment on the proposed limits on local governments passed by the Senate, which would include an increase in the homestead exemption.
Aside from taxes, other questions revolved around Landgraf’s HB 3692. The original version of the bill allowed the City of Odessa to issue new bonds without taxpayer consent and operate a hotel adjacent to a convention center. After receiving objections from constituents regarding the bill, Landgraf offered a substitute which was passed out of committee.
The bill in current form allows the City of Odessa a new form of taxpayer-funded subsidy to entice hotel development. A private company could build a hotel and receive the Hotel Occupancy Tax generated by the property for up to twenty years. Instead of the city collecting HOT taxes that may currently be used for other economic development purposes, the taxes paid by guests would be reimbursed back to the hotel operating.
One attendee questioned the merits of the bill, stating that he has never seen a venture like this in the U.S. be successful, labeling the measure a form of “corporate welfare.”
State Sen. Kel Seliger has authored the senate companion bill, SB 1403, which mirrors the text of Langraf’s original bill. When asked if he would amend Seliger’s bill once in the House, Landgraf said that he “will insist that our language is the language that moves forward.”