Texas leaders release identical property tax reform bills

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Identical property tax legislation filed in the Texas House and Texas Senate would limit annual local property tax growth to 2.5 percent from the current eight percent. State law currently permits local taxing units to increase property taxes up to eight percent before having to hold an election. 

“In what may be completely unprecedented, no one that I know of can remember the last time it was ever done this early in the session for an issue this big and profound,” Gov. Greg Abbott said. 

“That is a testament to tireless work that went into this effort before this session began,” he continued. “A lot of time was spent on it during the school finance commission hearings and work that members of both the House and Senate were involved in, but also once we got to the Capitol.” 

Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, chairs the House Ways and Means Committee and filed House Bill 2. Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, chairs the Senate Committee on Property Tax and filed companion legislation in the Senate. 

Bettencourt said the 2.5 number came from the governor. 

“With the House at six and the Senate at four, he was going to compromise at two-and-a-half,” Bettencourt said. “That’s what’s called real leadership.” 

Texas lawmakers and top leaders have repeatedly emphasized that school finance and property tax reform are the top priorities for this legislative session. The legislation would also create a searchable statewide database with information on how each jurisdiction’s proposed tax rates directly affects their individual tax bill, create a property tax advisory board in the Office of the Comptroller and expand opportunities for property owners to protest or appeal their appraisal value. 

“It ensures that we’re going to have control and taxpayers have control over the rate of increase of property taxes,” Burrows said. “It’s going to empower property owners to say no to significant increases in their property taxes and most of all it’s going to ensure taxpayers know who is increasing their property taxes.” 

Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus Chris Turner responded to Gov. Abbott’s press conference by stating, “School taxes are more than half the total property tax burden in Texas.  The state needs to increase its share of public education funding in order to reduce the local burden.  An arbitrary revenue cap, one that will also make it more difficult for local communities to fund public safety, is not going to solve this problem.” 

The Senate’s Committee on Property Tax meets next Wednesday. 

“I think until we have an idea of what the school finance bill is going to look like, really serious discussions about this revenue cap should slow down,” Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said. 

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