Lawmaker looks for compromise on property tax cap

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Rising property taxes have been an on-going source of complaints in Texas for years. But state lawmakers and leaders are making progress on a bill that could provide some tax relief.

The Texas Senate Property Tax Committee voted Monday to send Senate Bill 2 to the full Texas Senate for review. The bill would place a 2.5 percent cap on annual property tax growth. Anything above that would require voter approval. 

Four senators on the five-member committee voted to approve sending SB 2 to the full Senate. The lone Democrat on the committee, Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen) did not vote.

“I will vote ‘present, not voting’ being optimistic that we will move foward and continue to do a much deeper analysis of this bill and the consequences,” Hinojosa told his fellow committee members.

Hinojosa said he worries the 2.5 percent cap could limit the ability of cities, school districts, and other local governments to provide necessary services.

Committee chairman Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) told Hinojosa tax relief is what Texans need most.

“Remember, Texans are paying $60-billion in taxes now, and that is going up at an astonishing rate,” Bettencourt said. He said SB 2 would be “a slowing of tax revenue.”

House members have their own version of the property tax cap bill. House Bill 2 is being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) sits on that committee, and shared his perspective on the debate for the Sunday State of Texas politics program.

“I wouldn’t say there’s consensus right now,” Rodriguez said. “Nor would I say there’s a conflict, necessarily.” Rodriguez said he and his House colleagues are ready to work toward a compromise on the cap.

“What the Senate voted on is probably not going to be what we end up voting on or what House Bill 2 is going to look like,” Rodriguez said.

He said he’s heard about the issue of rising property taxes in Texas since before he entered office, 16 years ago. While property taxes are and have been a big problem in Texas, he believes that another aspect needs to be addressed in order to find a solution: school finance.

“The largest portion of your tax bill, your property tax bill, is going to be your school district portion of that,” Rodriguez said. “About 60% of your bill is the AISD or whatever school district you’re in.” 

Rodriguez says if the state puts more money toward public schools, that should lower property taxes on the school side of the bill.

Many House members along with some Senators worry that the 2.5 percent cap could limit public safety funding. With public safety being one of the biggest parts of city budgets, lawmakers want to make sure that is protected.

“We want to make sure that either that’s carved out or there is a little bit of wiggle room so the cities can break the 2.5% or whatever that number is going to be in the event cities need to hire more first responders,” Rodriguez said.

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