On Tuesday the Texas Senate approved major legislation to sharply limit local government’s abilities to increase property taxes without voter approval.
Authored by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), SB 2 would require local governments to hold an election referendum on any tax increase that would allow the entity to collect more than 5 percent in additional revenue from the same properties it also taxed the previous year.
While Bettencourt initially proposed a 4 percent limit as the “rollback rate” for the automatic tax referendum, the Houston lawmaker raised it to 5 percent during the committee process.
The dilution of SB 2 is a disappointment for conservatives, but Bettencourt’s bill remains a much-needed reform that gives citizens greater ability to rein in excessive tax increases.
Though Bettencourt had the support of many conservative citizens groups and the Texas Association of Realtors, local governments and their tax-funded lobbyists are ardently opposing the reform as an attack on “local control.” That’s unsurprising, considering local governments often oppose limits on their own taxing, spending, and borrowing power, even if those limits are imposed by their own constituents.
Following floor debate, the Texas Senate sided with Bettencourt and passed SB 2 by a vote of 18-12 with only one Republican, State Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, siding with a united Democrat caucus to aid local officials’ in their effort to evade taxpayer accountability.
Bettencourt praised the bill’s passage in a statement:
“Throughout Texas, in hearing after hearing, the Select Committee heard 50 hours of public testimony from frustrated Texas taxpayers who overwhelmingly called for property tax relief,” said Bettencourt. “The Texas Senate heard them. SB 2’s passage says, the plight of homeowners and business owners is recognized.”
The measure will now proceed to the Texas House where it will join companion legislation by State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R–Angleton).