Houston’s elected officials are continuing to endanger the prosperity of our state’s largest and most economically vibrant city by ignoring major fiscal challenges and complaining about voter-imposed revenue limits.
For the first time in five years, Houston taxpayers will get a tax rate cut on their property taxes. While this rate reduction is the first in the better part of a decade, most taxpayers will actually still pay more than previous years due to rising appraisal values.
Even though citizens are probably pleased with any cut, not everyone in the Bayou City is happy to have slightly more money (than would have been) in the pockets of the people who earned it. Indeed, some members of the Houston City Council are displeased with the revenue increase. No, they are not upset that Houstonians are paying more in taxes than they did in previous years. They think that taxpayers aren’t paying enough and lament that rates will be lowered.
The cut is the result of a decade-old revenue cap imposed on the city by voters. The limit stipulates that the city’s revenue cannot grow faster than either the combined rate of population and inflation or 4.5%, whichever number is lower.
In light of the soaring pension and debt obligations the city maintains, these big spending politicians are wringing their hands at the inability to raise taxes. Years of fiscal can-kicking by past city officials has left the city with a $120 million deficit next fiscal year.
Even with this massive deficit mountain staring-down council members, many are preoccupied with the molehill—the amount the city will not collect due to the revenue cap. This year the city will forgo $12.7 million than could otherwise be collected without the limit.
In an attempt to scare voters into repealing the cap, look for city politicians to threaten the loss of core city services such as police and fire in favor of gender-neutral restroom ordinance enforcement and recycling programs.
Ultimately, Houston taxpayers will have to pay the piper for the sins of their elected officials’ hesitancy to address real problems. Too many Houston politicians have decided the real problem is the limit on government growth, not endlessly growing government.
It is high time that Houstonians held their elected officials accountable and demand that the council address major fiscal challenges without raising taxes or complaints.