A total of 180 amendments have been prefiled in the Texas House in advance of the upcoming property tax reform debate. While each of them is impactful, one could likely scuttle the bill if adopted.
On Thursday, lawmakers are anticipated to debate House Bill 2 by Ways and Means Chairman Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock). If passed, the bill would protect taxpayers from skyrocketing tax increases by giving them greater tools to fight their appraisal and requiring taxing entities to obtain voter approval before seeking to raise taxes by more than 2.5 percent.
Conservatives are poised to strengthen the bill by ensuring that its taxpayer protections are applied to additional governmental entities (such as the school districts, community college districts, and other taxing jurisdictions that were removed from the legislation.)
Liberal lawmakers, meanwhile, will be attempting to weaken the protections afforded to taxpayers and increase the power of local governments. One, however, is particularly onerous.
That amendment, authored by State Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R–New Boston), reads as follows:
“To the extent a provision of this Act requires a program or service to be provided by a municipality or county during any state fiscal year, that provision is discretionary for that state fiscal year unless the legislature appropriates to the municipality or county money as necessary to pay the cost of providing the program or service during that state fiscal year.”
If adopted, the amendment could be construed to allow local officials and bureaucrats to refrain from calling an election or otherwise refuse to enact pro-taxpayer provisions in the legislation.
Two years ago, the Texas Legislature avoided a costly mistake by killing a constitutional amendment designed to invert our government upon its head by allowing local bureaucrats to object to new state laws and regulations by filing suit against the state under the claim they are “unfunded.”
Lawmakers would be wise to do so again or risk killing meaningful property tax reform.