AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After five months of discord and a short-lived special session, top Republican leaders remain at a tense impasse over how best to lower property taxes.
Here’s a look at the two competing proposals and who could stand to win and lose.
Tax rate compression
The Texas House passed legislation Tuesday to spend $12.3 billion on “compression.” That simply means the state would buy down school district property tax rates and foot the bill for the taxpayer. Combined with the approved state budget, the House plan would dedicate $17.6 billion to lower local tax rates by another sixteen cents.
Currently, school tax rates for maintenance and operations are $0.91 per every $100 of a home’s valuation. House Bill 1 of the first special session would drop that to $0.64 next year.
The House swiftly passed this plan with the endorsement of Gov. Greg Abbott and more than 30 business groups.
“This is a plan that we feel like is equitable. It doesn’t pick winners or losers. Our small business owners will get tax relief, homeowners will get tax relief, renters will get tax relief,” Texas State Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses Annie Spilman said. “Some may say that, well, that could only be a couple thousand dollars. To a small business owner, that is a lot of savings that they will put directly back in their business.”
Business leaders expect the House plan would save an owner of a $300,000 home about $1,300 over two years.
Homestead exemption increase
The Texas Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation to offer some tax compression in addition to raising the homestead exemption to $100,000. The homestead exemption refers to the amount of your home’s value you can deduct from the taxable value. For example, the current homestead exemption is $40,000, so an owner of a $300,000 home pays taxes on only $260,000.
The Senate argues this plan would prioritize homeowners over business property. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt anticipates it would save the average homeowner more than $2,500 over two years.
“This is the most powerful thing you can do as a tax writer, because if you exempt somebody from taxation, they never pay,” he told KXAN. “[Voters] know a homestead exemption saves them money every year for the rest of their lives. That’s why this is such an important piece of legislation. We’re recognizing the fact that homeowners need tax relief. And there’s a tremendous amount of tax relief in here for businesses. So it is a ‘Texas Two Step.’ It’s a win-win.”
Where do we go from here?
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is publicly feuding with Abbott over their competing plans.
“If the House thinks after abandoning the Capitol, and walking out on the special session, the Senate is going to pass their “take it or leave it” property tax bill without a homestead exemption, they are mistaken,” he said.
The House adjourned without a plan to return after passing their version of property tax relief on Tuesday. They refused to refer the Senate bill to a committee, effectively killing it and leaving their idea as the only one on the table.
It is likely Abbott will need to call a second special session to reconvene the House, assuming the Senate does not pass the House plan.
Yet the governor’s office is projecting confidence the Senate will get on board with the House plan.
“When the legislature failed to reach an agreement on a property tax plan in the regular session, Gov. Abbott immediately called a special session to address this top priority,” Abbott Communications Director Renae Eze told KXAN. “Less than 24 hours later, the Texas House passed his plan. Once the Texas Senate votes to pass this legislation, the governor will sign the largest property tax cut in Texas history, delivering permanent property tax relief to all Texans.”
The Texas Senate will reconvene on Friday but is not expected to take up the House’s bills.