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The Senate Property Tax Committee will hold its first meeting this week, and lawmakers will be presented with an abundance of public testimony regarding Senate Bill 2, the Senate version of the newly-announced property tax reform proposal. In previous sessions a great deal of the testimony on the topic has been aimed at walking back, or outright scrapping, attempts to control taxpayers’ skyrocketing bills. Unless a swarm of taxpayers take the Capitol by storm Wednesday, lawmakers can expect to see more of the same.

Texas’ three biggest leaders – Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen – rolled out the major reform proposal last week with the bills’ authors at a jointly-held press conference. During their initial remarks, all three plainly said there would be a clear departure from how reform-oriented bills had been handled in the past. No longer, they insisted, would the local officials, special interests, and Austin lobby who crowd committee chambers and Capitol hallways be the ones directing the system.

“Previous efforts to give our taxpayers the support and reform they deserve, local entities have chosen to pit the House versus the Senate, and the governor somewhere in between the discussion,” Bonnen said. “We ask you to come to the table and work with us on behalf of the taxpayers we both represent, but you will not be dividing the House and the Senate and the Governor on the solution.”

The legislature, in many ways, offers special interest groups unique advantages not available to Texas taxpayers. Committee meetings and important floor votes are, more often than not, held on weekdays during regular business hours while everyday Texans are hard at work to pay bills and feed hungry kids. The lobbyists and cronies closest to the legislature are showing up to advocate for the growth of government, often on government time and dime, greatly outnumbering average citizens when testifying, registering positions, or meeting with legislators.

Taking the “Big Three” at their word, and as evidenced by the select committee that traveled the state getting testimony from taxpayers most directly impacted, citizens might be able to have their say, even against the best wishes of Capitol insiders opposed to reform.

“The days of saying ‘no, we’re going to kill the bill because we don’t want change…’ those days are over,” Patrick said at the press conference.

Abbott has staked out the position of having heard the taxpayers over the shouts of local officials, already doubling down against tired pitches of lawless streets and crumbling roads from last session. The only thing required of him, legislatively that is, is his signature. Patrick, Bonnen, and the other 180 members of the 86th Texas Legislature can choose to listen to whomever they like, but taxpayers will know exactly where they side based on whether or not SB 2 and HB 2 make it out of the committee process and to the floor of their respective chambers still intact.

 

The Senate Property Tax Committee will meet at 8:00 AM, Wednesday, February 6, 2019 in Room E1.012 (Hearing Room).

Public testimony will begin at the conclusion of the State of the Judiciary. Information on providing testimony before the committee can be found here.