A prominent left-wing newspaper published inaccuracies about a tax reform proposal supported by the Lt. Governor and other conservative lawmakers. In doing so, they’ve once again tarnished their credibility as a reliable news source.
Richard Whitaker – a staff writer for the notoriously liberal Austin Chronicle – inaccurately described the state’s “rollback” limit and a Senate proposal to lower it. “Rollback” refers to the property tax limits placed on cities and counties. He wrote:
“Currently, if a city raises the property tax rate by more than eight cents per $100 of valuation, voters can petition to force a rollback election. Under Senate Bill 2, authored by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, any raise over four cents would automatically trigger a vote.” [Emphasis added]
Whitaker is just plain wrong. State law effectively limits a city or county to collecting eight percent more revenue from the same taxpayers it also taxed in the previous year. In other words, the current “rollback” limit is a revenue cap – not a tax rate cap – and it only applies to properties taxed in both years, not new development.
This information can be readily found online and is clearly outlined on the Texas State Comptroller’s website, where it reads:
“[T]he M&O portion of the rollback tax rate is the tax rate that would be needed to raise the same amount of taxes that the taxing unit levied in the prior year plus eight percent.” [Emphasis added]
The Austin Chronicle also misreported what Bettencourt’s reform proposal would do. It would lower the eight percent rollback limit to four percent, and require that governments seeking to exceed it first obtain voter approval.
Embarrassingly, the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) tweeted the inaccurate Chronicle report. A long-standing opponent to any reform that limits government and empowers voters, TAC is known to spread any and all anti-taxpayer propaganda they can find.
The TAC also incorrectly claims a lower revenue cap would hurt the ability of counties to provide new services to a growing population. Again, this is nothing more than propaganda based on a misunderstanding of rollback limits.
The state’s local revenue cap or “rollback” rate only limits how much cities and counties can increase taxes on the existing tax base. Regardless of whether the rollback limit is four or eight percent, localities will still collect additional revenue from new residential and commercial taxpayers who’ve recently moved into their jurisdiction.
Population growth is not a valid objection to the Senate’s property tax reform proposal. To the surprise of no one, left-wing newspapers and government-interest groups continue to disregard the facts and mislead the public to oppose common-sense tax reform.