Following County Judge Ed Emmett’s State of Harris County speech last week, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) released a blistering press release in which he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick criticized Emmett’s opposition to their property tax reform proposals.
Emmett’s speech was highly critical of legislation requiring local governments to get voter approval for tax increases over four percent. “Enough is enough,” Emmett said, arguing that such a measure would hamper the county’s ability to raise revenue for all the services he deems necessary.
“Enough is enough, indeed,” stated Patrick. “Judge Emmett is clearly not listening to the people. Let’s be absolutely clear – the property tax reforms we proposed this session didn’t cap local spending, but they would have prohibited local budgets from increasing more than 4 percent without voter approval. If Judge Emmett needs more than 4 percent, he simply has to convince the people to support it.”
Bettencourt noted that Harris County’s property tax revenue has risen 36.4 percent in just the last three years. Harris County has not lowered its tax rate over that period, while Bettencourt notes even liberal Travis County has lowered its tax rate from $0.49 to $0.38 in the same period.
Bettencourt also called out Emmett for not having Harris County reappraise property damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Residents whose property was damaged will still be taxed on what it was worth before the storm, even if their homes were completely destroyed.
According to Bettencourt, Emmett should let voters have a say on proposed tax increases:
“Judge Emmett should not fear putting public policy before the voters. Voters are capable of recognizing a good plan when they see one, and elected officials should trust their decision!”