As negotiations between the Texas House of Representatives and Senate seemed to fall apart on legislation purporting to provide property tax relief, a Hail Mary effort was thrown into the mix just before the forced conclusion of the ongoing special legislative session
Increasing the Homestead Exemption
In a matter of mere minutes, new legislation was filed in the Senate by Republican State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (Houston), granted a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee, and approved by the overall Senate, where all 31 senators signed on as authors and voted in favor of it.
Shortly thereafter, the House referred the legislation to the House Ways & Means Committee, where they held a quick meeting and approved of the legislation. It was considered by the overall House a short time later and passed unanimously.
The legislation is a proposed constitutional amendment that would increase the homestead tax exemption from its current amount of $25,000 to $40,000.
In 2015, the exemption was raised from $15,000, but Texas property taxpayers saw little to no actual relief from that endeavor.
The ongoing special legislative session is due to reach its forced conclusion on Tuesday, October 19, and property tax relief is an item currently on the agenda, set by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Notably, it was not originally on the agenda however when the special session was first announced. In the previous special session, both Republican lawmakers and Abbott lauded over legislation they approved of then, that provided relief to only certain special classes and not all Texas property taxpayers.
During the current special session, both legislative chambers considered legislation that initially would have provided an estimated $200 of relief for a home valued at approximately $300,000. When the legislation was considered by the House, they changed it to instead provide for a one-time rebate check, funded by $3 billion of the federal COVID-19 relief funding, instead of providing for permanent tax relief.
As that legislation went back to the Senate, negotiations between both chambers appear to have fallen apart, causing the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) to publicly remind lawmakers that Texans want and deserve immediate relief.
Ultimately, the proposed constitutional amendment is estimated to only now provide about $175 per year of property tax relief to Texas taxpayers.
When They Choose to Prioritize Something, It Gets Done.
The speed with which the new legislation was ultimately considered and approved of is a perfect testament to what can be done if the Legislature—and more specifically, the Republican lawmakers that control it—choose to prioritize certain legislation.
Compare that with legislative priorities of the Texas GOP that are still left outstanding, and it starts to paint a picture of the ongoing struggle between Republican activists and lawmakers from their own party.
What is Next?
If passed, the proposed constitutional amendment will be put before Texas voters in May of 2022. If adopted, it would provide barely any relief that could be felt by Texas taxpayers and ultimately remain a far cry from what Texas taxpayers overwhelming want.