With the state expected to have a $27 billion surplus when lawmakers gather in January for the next legislative session, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan is tempering expectations that the money will be used for property tax relief.
Since the surplus was announced earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott has stated that “at least half” of the money should go toward property tax relief, committing to put the state on a path toward the elimination of school property taxes.
That plan has received the support of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has said the actual number could be much higher than half.
But at a recent meeting of the Transportation Advocacy Group in Houston, Speaker Phelan indicated that his plans for the surplus may not include substantial property tax relief.
“I know there’s a lot of politicians who are going around saying we need to go around spending half this revenue [on property tax relief],” Phelan told attendees. “I’ve got elected officials who haven’t taken the oath of office saying we need to spend all the revenue on property tax relief. Let me just remind you, none of this money came from property taxes. It all came from sales tax.”
Phelan later hinted that the money would likely go to infrastructure and growing government, saying, “No one is even considering how much more expensive it’s going to be to run government next cycle.”
Meanwhile, State Rep. Tom Oliverson (R–Cypress) and incoming State Rep. Ellen Troxclair have both filed bills to use 90 percent of the $27 billion surplus toward buying down property taxes.
Jeramy Kitchen, the executive director of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, says Phelan’s stance should concern Texans.
“It should be concerning to Texans to have the Republican speaker of the Texas House be on the opposite side of Texas taxpayers, his own political party’s platform, the lieutenant governor, and governor when it comes to using the projected budget surplus to provide actual property tax relief to Texas taxpayers,” said Kitchen. “If the speaker is so concerned about infrastructure spending, he should set his mind to using existing budget resources for those efforts.”
Kitchen added, “Taxpayers have had to tighten their belts as a result of record inflation and out-of-control government spending at the federal, state, and local levels, ultimately stifling their own future prosperity, all of which should necessitate that government does the same.”
As of publishing, Phelan’s office did not respond to a request for comment.