Despite Texas voters’ clamoring for property tax relief, the Texas House is moving to make taxpayer burdens even worse by overriding the chamber’s Republican majority to advance legislation that will result in even higher taxes. And if taxpayers don’t speak up, the senate may follow their lead.
On Tuesday, House lawmakers voted to approve House Bill 486 by State Reps. Gary VanDeaver (R–Texarkana) and Donna Howard (D–Austin). In short, the bill allows for school districts to create a “tax window” within which they could vary their rate up or down without getting voter approval.
The legislation is being pitched as a way to allow school districts to more easily adjust their rates downward, but in practice it would actually allow districts to bust the rollback rate without voter approval. That fact is acknowledged in the fiscal note attached to the bill.
“The proposed new procedure could result in higher tax rates in some instances,” reads the Legislative Budget Board’s analysis.
Knowing this, the bill is being pushed by two notoriously liberal groups that are on-the-record in favor of higher property taxes and removing voter input: the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the Fast Growth Schools Coalition.
Despite being opposed by a strong majority of Republican lawmakers – including GOP Caucus Chairman Tan Parker (R–Flower Mound) – the measure was passed by a coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats on a vote of 90-49. The significance of the vote margin is this: in the 150-member House, 95 are Republicans; of the 95 Republicans, 49 voted against the tax scheme.
The minority of the House GOP joined with all the Democrats to pass legislation that will “result in higher tax rates.”
The measure will now advance to the much more conservative Texas Senate. This session, taxpayers have come to expect senators to kill measures such as these. However, taxpayers are alarmed that may not be the case this time.
Indeed, the Texas Senate’s intent calendar includes an identical companion – Senate Bill 1267 – that could be brought up and voted on as early as today.
Even before entering the Texas Senate or becoming lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick has been a vocal advocate for overhauling the property tax system and significantly reducing the property tax burden. So too are the vast majority of the Republican lawmakers that compose the body of the Texas Senate.
HB 486 and its companion, SB 1267, not only make it easier for school districts to raise rates on their citizens, but it also represents a major step backward on real property tax reform. Taxpayers should demand that the Texas Senate stand up for them and kill this bad legislation.