Texans frustrated by ever-rising property taxes have special reason to be engaged in the speaker race. Incumbent Speaker Joe Straus not only opposes efforts to cap property taxes, but has made sure any such reforms die in committee.
Right after being elected speaker in 2009 — brought to power by 65 Democrats and 11 Republicans — Mr. Straus told a roomful of local officials that he opposed restrictions on property tax increases. This group, which fought appraisal caps and other limitations on government growth, were told by Mr. Straus that they now had a “friend” in his office.
Friend to the taxers, but apparently not the taxpayers. Never mind that Texans have been overburdened by property tax appraisals and levies rising far more rapidly than their ability to pay.
Mr. Straus made good on his opposition to property tax caps by placing liberal Democrat Rene Oliveira of Brownsville as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
In turn, Mr. Oliveira opperated in line with Joe Straus and refused to even have hearings on any taxpayer protection initiatives.
Chairman Oliveira bragged to the Texas Association of Counties — a tax-funded lobby group working to stop taxpayer protection legislation — that he blocked tax caps and taxpayer protection efforts, and would continue to do so.
You can hear Mr. Oliveira in his own words. I recommend having your most recent property tax appraisal notice on hand as you do… You might also “enjoy” the glowing write-up of Mr. Straus’ pandering to the jolly big-taxers written by tax-hiking former-State Rep.-turned-tax-funded-lobbyist Fred Hill.
After telling the big-tax audience he, like Hill, believed protecting taxpayers from unbridled property tax creep to be bad policy, the Speaker received “loud spontaneous applause.” According to lobbyist Hill, Straus turned to him and said, “I guess that’s all I need to say.”
For months Texans have been asking Speaker Straus to bust Mr. Oliveira from the powerful perch, but the San Antonio Republican has refused to take action. It looks increasingly like the only way to dislodge Mr. Oliveira, and get real action on taxpayer protections, is with a conservative House Speaker.
So what’s Joe Straus’ fiscal record? Voting for a massive business tax in 2006, opposing property tax reforms in 2009, and keeping the big-taxers firmly in your wallet in 2010. Just makes you just giddy for the new year, doesn’t it?
I sure hope there weren’t any legislators who promised property reforms on the campaign trail…
UPDATE (12/17/2010): There were… Finding revenue caps and/or appraisal caps were big campaign issues for a fair number of folks, including — for example — State Reps. Dwayne Bohac, Brandon Creighton, Mike Hamilton, Ken Legler and Allen Fletcher, and State Reps-elect Dee Margo, Paul Workman, Dan Huberty and Jim Murphy. With Chairman Oliveira committed to killing tax reforms in the Ways & Means Committee, makes it harder for folks like these to have a property tax victory to take home…