Just after midnight, the Texas House voted 149-0 to advance a budget that grows the size of government by nearly 16 percent and provides only a meager whisper of property tax relief.
Despite a strong Republican majority of lawmakers who campaigned on property tax relief, House lawmakers instead chose to do Democrats’ work for them by increasing the appropriations of virtually every portion of government at a faster rate than population and inflation—increasing the size of government beyond Texans’ ability to pay.
But even more frustrating than the failure of the Texas House to deliver substantive property tax relief is the failure of conservatives to fight for it.
Though a large number of conservatives, including State Reps. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford), Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park), Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth), and Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler), had amendments to constrain the growth of government and provide greater appropriations for property tax relief, each of them surrendered their amendments.
It was not with a bang, but with a whimper—a slow-walked surrender by conservative lawmakers and an all-out Republican rout.
Amendment after amendment was withdrawn in exchange for promises that Democrats would stand down from fights they would lose and that lawmakers would pass amendments they were already on track to pass.
Perhaps most egregious was conservatives’ decision to trade away their amendments cutting the growth of spending across the board. Their price? Support for an amendment by State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R–Plano) that set a statutory minimum for property tax relief at $2.8 billion—the rate already proposed by House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood). And, by the way, a level that members of the House have admitted is “not substantial” and unlikely to be felt by taxpayers.
Even then, Shaheen sliced $100 million off his amendment before offering a proposal so innocuous that every Democrat member of the Texas House voted to approve it.
However, not every deal that was cut was a bad one.
According to Capitol sources, freshman State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) agreed to discard his amendment, which would prevent illegal aliens from receiving state dollars set aside for Hurricane Harvey assistance, in exchange for lawmakers moving his bill to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying forward in the process.
And he ensured quick action on it. During the debate on the budget, House State Affairs Committee Chairman Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) convened a meeting to advance Middleton’s legislation on to the Calendars Committee—an early advancement that could help ensure the legislation passes this session.
But outside of Middleton’s victory and a few minor clashes—such as State Rep. Stickland’s attempt to defund the feral hog abatement program—conservatives are deluding themselves to feel anything other than disappointed.