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State lawmakers are preparing for a lengthy debate of the state’s budget. Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to finally take up property tax reform, and consider various proposals to gut the legislation so that it doesn’t cover the majority of your bill!

As originally filed, House Bill 2, would provide for increased voter control over the growth of skyrocketing property taxes by triggering automatic elections for tax hikes above 2.5 percent for large taxing entities and 8 percent for smaller ones.

After hearing citizen testimony February in a marathon hearing that lasted until almost midnight, the bill has been left pending as lawmakers fret over the proposal—stuck between taxpayers demanding relief and local officials defending their tax and spend fiefdoms.

But now it appears that fretting is over, and taxpayers are on track to get the shaft.

State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) said Wednesday morning that HB 2 would be revisited in committee after lawmakers complete their work on the budget late Wednesday evening. Past sessions have seen the House work until midnight or later on the budget, setting up a committee vote on HB 2 when average Texans are least likely to attend or follow along online.

While none could be confirmed, several sources state Burrows and his committee could propose and adopt several amendments that would water down the bill’s effects and deprive taxpayers of across-the-board reform. Most egregiously it is believed the committee may carve school districts out of the bill—the taxing entities that comprise the largest portion of the average Texan’s property tax bill.

Additional changes could include removing community colleges, emergency service districts, and hospital districts from the triggered elections—all changes that would deprive taxpayers of the tools they need to control runaway spending.

But wait, there’s more!

It’s also been reported lawmakers will consider a provision that would allow local taxing entities to essentially “roll over” years in which they kept growth under 2.5 percent in order to increase it in following years without voter approval. Yet another way to avoid taxpayer accountability.

Lawmakers appear to be aware that their changes won’t be met with citizen approval, as they are literally planning to make these changes under cover of darkness late Wednesday night.

When the committee met Wednesday morning, Burrows suggested that the bill and potential amendments would be brought up after legislators finished debate on the state’s budget, a marathon session that often goes late into the night or early morning—putting the committee on track to likely perform their work sometime around the witching hour.

Fitting.

That said, it’s not all bad news. Indeed, the good news about these proposed changes is they haven’t happened…yet!

Citizens still can, and should, let lawmakers know that gutting property tax reform is unacceptable and that those who choose to side with local officials and Democrats over taxpayers will be held accountable.

Rep. Dustin Burrows          512-463-0542

Rep. Dwayne Bohac          512-463-0727

Rep. Jim Murphy               512-463-0514

Rep. Candy Noble             512-463-0186

Rep. Scott Sanford            512-463-0356

Rep. Matt Shaheen           512-463-0594

Rep. John Wray                512-463-0516

 

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