After leadership in the Texas House killed his property tax reform measures during the special session last summer, Gov. Greg Abbott clarified his expectations for when the legislature reconvenes next year.
Speaking at a press conference in Houston this morning, Abbott unveiled the main tenets of the reform he would be pushing lawmakers to pass when they return which includes measures to restrain the exponential growth in property taxes homeowners have experienced throughout the past years, reining in local debt through greater bond transparency, and requiring higher thresholds for bond approval.
Abbott was joined on stage by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Houston-area State Sens. Joan Huffman, and Paul Bettencourt, who authored previous reform measures in the Senate, as well as State Reps. Dennis Bonnen and Jim Murphy. Setting the stage for Abbott’s news was David Garcia, a homeowner from Houston who opened the conference by sharing how important tax relief would be to an average Texas family.
Abbott introduced his plan by highlighting the astronomical burden that property taxes have had on Texans:
Texans are fed up with property taxes being raised with impunity. They are tired of endless government spending while honest hardworking people struggle to keep up with paying their tax bills. We can no longer sit idly by while homeowners are reduced to tenants of their very own property, with taxing entities playing the role of landlord. It is time to finally reform the property tax system in Texas .
In the plan, which was soon published on his website, Abbott calls for a 2.5% cap on property tax revenue growth, a reform measure that goes even further than some of the proposals that were obstructed in the House last year. Abbott also calls for improvements to the appraisal appeals process and requiring appraisal district directors to be locally elected officials.
Additionally, Abbott called for greater transparency of local debt before taxpayers vote on additional debt, a proposal which has failed for years in the legislature due in large part to opposition from tax-funded lobbyists who represent local governments. Abbott’s plan also calls for 2/3 approval by voters before new debt can be issued.
Abbott underscored the important role out-of-control local debt plays in skyrocketing property taxes:
Restraining the growth of local debt…is key to reducing property tax burdens. In the last decade alone, at least a dozen school districts have constructed football stadiums costing tens of millions of dollars each,$500 million has been spent on indoor practice facilities, and average cost of a high school football stadium has quadrupled…Other cities around the country, including Detroit, and Stockton and San Bernardino in California have all entered bankruptcy in part because they defaulted on bonds they had issued.
While today Abbott doubled down on his advocacy for property tax reform measures from the legislature, this isn’t the first time he has made reform a priority. Despite making it one of his priority agenda items for the special session last year, lawmakers loyal to Straus repeatedly killed the measures and prevented them from becoming law.
Patrick blasted the other chamber for their role in killing the proposals, stating that he hoped house members would consider a speaker candidate’s commitment to property tax reform before handing them the gavel. He made his endorsement of Abbott’s plan quickly known, stating, “This is a real, bolder, bigger reform plan. I can promise you the Senate will deliver on property tax relief. That’s a guarantee.”
Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey applauded the proposal following Abbott’s rollout:
I thank Governor Abbott for committing to this serious issue that all Texas homeowners must face. Reversing the trend of escalating tax burdens is an integral part of RPT’s platform, and we appreciate this first step in helping Texans. I look forward to participating with the Texas Legislature to help ensure that the Republican delegates’ voices are heard, and that Texans get property tax relief once and for all as we move to a more equitable consumption-based system.
The chances of the legislation passing in 2019 are dependent on the makeup of the House next session and the leadership elected by the body, which are not mutually exclusive factors. Conservatives who want to see property tax reform pass should evaluate their candidates’ record on this issue, and other issues affecting taxpayers, on the Fiscal Responsibility Index.