With the temperature increasing on the ongoing battle between state leaders regarding how to best distribute property tax relief funds, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is challenging Gov. Greg Abbott to a public debate to sort it out.
While property tax relief was a legislative priority of Abbott, the House and Senate have been at odds all year on their approach to property tax relief. While the House advocated for stronger appraisal caps, the Senate has supported an increase to the homestead exemption.
Abbott, meanwhile, has increasingly embraced a plan to use the money to help buy down—or “compress”—local school property taxes.
In the current special legislative session, the House passed a bill to do just that—providing around $12.4 billion in relief solely in compression. They then adjourned “Sine Die” that day, meaning they would not return for the remainder of the special session—a move meant to squeeze the Senate into accepting their proposal.
The Senate, meanwhile, passed their own version with a smaller amount of compression but with an increase of the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000, a move Patrick says is meant to ensure that more of the relief goes to homeowners rather than businesses.
Patrick and the Senate have remained steadfast in their push for a homestead exemption increase, with Patrick calling a press conference on Tuesday and blasting the other chamber’s proposal.
“I think every one of the 150 House members—and I know every one of 31 senators and the governor, myself, and all statewide [officeholders]—said we’re here to reduce property taxes,” said Patrick. “Homeowners weren’t thinking about reducing property taxes for shopping centers and offices. … They were thinking about themselves, rightfully so.”
While Abbott has touted the compression-only plan in recent days as a way to eliminate property taxes altogether, Patrick called the notion a “fantasy.”
“I say to the House, come back to work. We’re working. We’ll be here. We’ll wait next week to see if you come back. And if the governor disagrees with me, then I invite Gov. Abbott to a Lincoln-Douglas style debate on this issue alone—eliminating property taxes for the long term,” said Patrick, adding that he had availability early next week.
In a press conference later in the afternoon, Abbott deflected the invitation and said it was up to the House and Senate to reach an agreement.
Patrick’s invitation was the latest in a series of public criticisms he has made against the governor over the past week.
“The governor said to me, ‘You’ve got a speaker, you’ve got a lieutenant governor, and you have a governor. If two go to war against one, usually the one loses.’ And I said to the governor, ‘But not if the two have bad policy.’ And these two are behind a bad policy,” said Patrick.
Additionally, Patrick told Texas Scorecard he had not spoken directly with Abbott since the start of the special session last week.
The compression-only plan supported by Abbott has received support from groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and the Huffines Liberty Foundation, whom Patrick specifically called out.
“It is sad when our leaders allow emotionalism to distort the truth. Dan Patrick knows that the facts, as he lays them out, are deceitful at best. Texans are tired of renting their property from the government,” Don Huffines told Texas Scorecard.
Still others, like Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi, have argued Abbott is not serious about property tax elimination, especially when more money could have been allocated to property tax relief in the budget this session.
“Dan Patrick recognizes none of the legislators advocating for compression only are serious about eliminating property taxes. He is thinking practically about who benefits from this tax cut. A mix of compression/homestead concentrates the benefits on working-class homeowners and families, who he is trying to help,” Rinaldi wrote on Twitter.
“I don’t believe proponents of compression only are serious about eliminating property taxes and I want a tax cut to benefit young and working-class families in single-family homes, not businesses. That’s why I personally support the Senate plan,” he added.
Cait Wittman, a spokesperson for House Speaker Dade Phelan, meanwhile, blamed the Senate for not passing their proposal.
“In the special session, the House came to work, passed its bills with bipartisan support, and adjourned—the Senate is keeping Texans waiting,” said Wittman. “We encourage the Senate to follow the House’s lead so that Texans can have the property tax relief and the secure border they deserve.”