As property tax reform legislation moves through both chambers, some rural lawmakers are trying to ensure the majority of Texans have less control over their skyrocketing property tax rates.
House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 were announced early in the legislative session during a joint press conference by the Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen.
The legislation would slow the growth of property taxes by triggering automatic elections for tax increases above 2.5 percent for large taxing entities and 8 percent for smaller ones.
The distinction between large and small, however, is where the conflict is.
As filed, any taxing entity with above $15 million in revenue would be subject to the 2.5 percent “voter-approved rate.” Early numbers suggested that would put about 60 percent of Texans above the threshold.
Some rural lawmakers, however, don’t want their constituents to have that amount of control over their property tax rates and are working hard behind the scenes to water down the legislation.
In an interview with an Austin newspaper last week, State Rep. Kyle Kacal (R–Bryan) said he was in favor of moving the threshold from $15 million to including only taxing entities that bring in more than a shocking $50 million.
“I’m looking for something like $40 (million) to $50 million,” he told the newspaper, adding, “small communities need some leeway.”
Such a high threshold would not only carve out Kacal’s district but those of most Texans as well, leaving only highly populated, largely Democrat-voting urban areas—Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Fort Worth— with the 2.5 percent approval rate; the rest would be relegated to an 8 percent rate, if they get to vote at all.
Fortunately, the fight for taxpayers is far from over.
While Senate Bill 2 has been passed out of committee in the Senate, it has not yet received a full vote. In the House, the Committee on Ways and Means is scheduled to hear the House version and hear public testimony Wednesday. Taxpayers who want to ensure meaningful property tax reform during this legislative session are encouraged to come make their voices heard.