Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen says Texans should not expect to see an “overwhelming” reduction in the skyrocketing property taxes forcing some out of their homes “because the money just isn’t available to accomplish that.”
In an interview with an Austin television reporter on Wednesday, Bonnen covered a wide range of issues ranging from school finance to marijuana legislation. What was most interesting, though, were his remarks about property tax relief, in which he threw cold water on the No. 1 priority from taxpayers to lawmakers this session.
“I think what they’re going see is a reduction in their property taxes, but it’s not going to be overwhelming, unfortunately, because the money just isn’t available to accomplish that.”
Last week, both chambers of the Texas Legislature appointed conferees to meet in joint committees to work through differences on school finance legislation, House Bill 3, which contains an appropriation for the reduction of school maintenance and operations property taxes. The bill no longer contains a contingency clause for a sales tax increase that was killed last week, only days after Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Bonnen were publicly cheerleading the measure.
Bonnen said with the death of House Joint Resolution 3, the sales tax “swap” that would have raised the states sales tax by a penny—a move by which Texas would tie California with one of the highest state sales taxes in the nation— any chances of “overwhelming” relief are now gone.
These comments come in spite of Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s revenue estimate that lawmakers had over $9 billion in surplus revenues at the beginning of the session—an estimate he just revised to nearly $10 billion.
Bonnen, however, asserts that the money for meaningful relief is simply not available to the legislature.
Conservatives are urging lawmakers to revisit the budget, cut spending, and dedicate a more substantial portion of the $10 billion surplus back to taxpayers struggling to pay skyrocketing property tax bills. Currently, the Texas House has budgeted roughly $2.7 billion for property tax relief while the Texas Senate has budgeted nearly $5.6 billion. Lawmakers have until the Texas Legislature adjourns on May 27 to come to an agreement on that and other matters.