Kudos to Attorney General Greg Abbott for an outstanding AG’s opinion released yesterday that concludes the Legislature may not impose new property taxes without a constitutional amendment approved by the voters. Texans for Fiscal Responsibility had submitted a letter brief in February to the AG Opinions Committee and our position, and more importantly Texas taxpayers, prevailed.

At issue was whether a multijurisdictional library district could impose a new property tax. Even if the Legislature had authorized it, the AG’s opinion finds that a constitutional amendment would have been needed because the Constitution provides an exclusive list of property taxes and property taxing authorities. The scholarly opinion catalogs recent examples of constitutional amendments to create new property taxes and authorities (mostly limited to certain geographic areas), which obviously would have been superfluous if it could just be done by simple legislation.

TFR had made this point in its letter, citing Section 48-e of the Constitution which provides authorization for property taxes imposed by multijurisdictional emergency services districts and Section 48-f which provides similar authorization for multijurisdictional jail districts.

While this somewhat technical legal ruling has escaped notice, Texans can sleep better tonight knowing that their right to vote on any new property taxing authority is secure.

As for the multijurisdictional library district, there is nothing to stop various cities, counties, school districts, or other entities from pooling their own tax revenues to contribute to a joint library. Also, we would note that Google is in the process of putting nearly every book online.

Check out the opinion at:

https://www.oag.state.tx.us/opinions/opinions/50abbott/op/2008/htm/ga-0626.htm

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