A letter addressed to Texas House Committee on Ways and Means’ Chairman Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) from a group of city mayors outlines the staunch and uncompromising nature of local officials’ opposition to lowering the rollback rate to 2.5 percent.

Local officials last week began to change their tune and approach to property tax reform measures before the members of Ways and Means during public testimony on House Bill 2. Mayors, county judges, and many other local officials opted to testify “on” the bill, rather than “against” it, and frequently said they wanted to work together on the bill and reach a compromise all could agree on.

So far however, that’s been a distinction without a difference.

In a recent letter to Burrows, which was also sent to other members of the committee, local officials doubled down on the new rhetoric requesting of Burrows a working group and that he “accept this letter as our intent to support HB 2;” however, the “coalition” clearly articulates its position on the rollback rate remains unchanged.

The letter is dated February 26, 2019 and details their refusal to lower the rollback rate – or the “Voter-Approved Rate” in the senate version’s language – as follows:

“To be clear, the proposed rollback number of 2.5% in the filed version of the bill is not a workable proposal for us as it would have a wildly disparate impact on various cities depending on our varying reliance on property taxes as part of our overall total revenues.”

It should be noted, local officials fiercely opposed lowering the rollback rate last session to 4 percent, 5 percent, and 6 percent. The lobbyist organization Texas Municipal League, propped up with millions of dollars in taxpayer monies allocated by the local officials it represents, has stated their intentions for the 86th Legislature clearly on this issue.

Their 2019 Legislative Program, a handbook for confronting the issues being considered by lawmakers, states, “The League will vigorously oppose any legislation that would erode municipal authority in any way… especially legislation that would:”

“impose a revenue and/or tax cap of any type, including a reduced rollback rate, mandatory tax rate ratification elections, lowered rollback petition requirements, limitations on overall city expenditures, exclusion of the new property adjustment in effective rate and rollback rate calculations, or legislation that lowers the rollback rate and gives a city council the option to re-raise the rollback rate.”

With the Texas Legislature’s marquee property tax reform legislation currently in Burrows’ custody, it is imperative that he recognize this letter for what it is, a negotiating tactic to place leverage back into the hands of local officials and their lobbyists, and that he ultimately side with the people of Texas who have demanded an overhaul of property tax system that has threatened to force them out of their homes for over a decade.

The mayors of the cities of Amarillo, Austin, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Conroe, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Worth, Galveston, Garland, Grand Prairie, Houston, Irving, Lubbock, McKinney, Pflugerville, Plano, Richardson, Round Rock, San Antonio, Southlake, and Sugar Land have all signed on to the letter.

The full letter can be read HERE.

Destin Sensky

Destin Sensky serves as a Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard covering the Texas Legislature, working to bring Texans the honest and accurate coverage they need to hold their elected officials in Austin accountable.