As Texans’ property tax bills consume more of their income, there seem to be no bills filed yet that would provide meaningful property tax relief—just more attempts to control the growth of the problem.

After property tax reform passed in 2019, Texans’ property tax bills are still rising.

In a prior interview, North Texas realtor Chandler Crouch shared action items the Legislature must take to help taxpayers. Among these are reducing the amount home values can grow year to year—for those who apply for the homestead exemption—from 10 percent to 5 percent. Crouch also wants a cap on value growth for those who don’t apply for a homestead exemption; as of right now, there is no limit for such.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) has come close to this with Senate Bill 489 and Senate Joint Resolution 31, both filed last week.

“[SB 489] reduces the maximum tax value increase per year from 10 [percent] down to 5 [percent],” North Texas realtor Chandler Crouch wrote in his analysis, emphasizing he “loves” the bill. “[SJR 31) basically serves the same function as SB 489 by just allowing [it] to happen.”

But Tim Hardin, executive director of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, reminds us this isn’t property tax relief.

“Neither of Kolkhorst’s bills actually [accomplishes] what Texas homeowners have been screaming for years, that the Texas Senate should abolish property taxes or greatly reduce them,” said Hardin. “Simply reducing a cap for a tax increase does nothing more than slow the tax’s growth rate. Texans did not ask for a reduction in growth rate, but for genuine tax reform and relief.”

Crouch refers to a solution from the Texas Public Policy Foundation to explain how legislators can go from controlling property tax growth to real property tax relief: Cap the state’s year-to-year budget growth at 4 percent, then assign 90 percent of projected budget surpluses to cut school taxes.

None of the bills filed last week move towards this.

Summary of Last Week

James Quintero, policy director for Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Government for the People Campaign, found State Rep. Mayes Middleton’s (R–Wallisville) House Bill 1393 and its enabling partner legislation, HJR 77, “would allow any taxing unit to offer an exemption of up to 100 [percent] of a home’s value, instead of the current maximum (20 [percent]).”

However, Quintero notes neither of the bills “require a taxing unit to offer the maximum allowable exemption.”

There’s also Middleton’s HB 1391, which Quintero explains “would require taxing units to adopt the lesser of the no-new-revenue tax rate (NNRR) or the voter-approval tax rate (VAR) in the case of a failed tax increase election.”

The NNRR, if adopted, “would produce the same amount of taxes if applied to the same properties’ taxes in both years.” The VAR is the “maximum rate allowed by law without voter approval.”

“For certain taxing units, [it] allows qualified voters to petition for an election seeking to reduce the tax rate adopted to the lesser of the unit’s no-new-revenue tax rate or voter-approval tax rate,” Quintero continued.

Where is Property Tax Relief?

Hardin says these bills don’t accomplish enough.

“Taxpayers have been screaming at legislators over the past few years to eliminate the property tax or massively reduce it. Most bills by legislators are not seeking to do this.”

“In past sessions, we have seen them put caps on rates, yet all that does is slow the growth of out-of-control ad valorem taxes,” he continued, adding that it “affects retired elderly at a far greater rate than other demographics.”

Hardin went on to issue a call for the Legislature “to actively reduce dramatically or eliminate the ad valorem tax.”

“Slowing the rate of tax increases only kicks the can down the road and allows lawmakers to falsely claim they are helping homeowners,” he said. “Of all of the years to take decisive action through aggressive cuts, this seems to be the year. We plead with the Texas Legislature to rise to the occasion and get it done for the people of Texas.”

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.