Governor Greg Abbott plans to take another shot at reducing property tax rates after the state legislature rejected similar plans last session.
A bitter cold front blanketing much of Texas in snow and ice isn’t slowing down Abbott’s push to reduce local property taxes. The governor announced at a Houston news conference his office’s plan to cut local property taxes.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s rain, snow, sleet or hail; Texas legislators are going to be responsive to this pressing demand that Texans have to lower their property taxes,” Abbott said.
Abbott’s announcement took place in the home of Houston resident David Garcia, who talked about the financial issues a family of five deals with on one income.
“I know the struggle of working hard to get ahead, to make a little more each year to feed and clothe a growing family. I know the joy of getting that small raise, that little promotion that might mean just a little bit of wiggle room in the budget and I know the frustration of seeing my property taxes balloon out of control, increasing just over 45-percent in the last four years,” Garcia said.
Abbott’s plan, which is part his re-election campaign, aims to reduce local city and county spending by reducing the rate at which local government can grow. The plan would require local government to not raise property tax rates by more than 2.5 percent of revenue generated the previous year.
“Now this isn’t some new novel idea — at least 15 states across the country have a cap like this on property tax growth,” Abbott said.
But state Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio Democrat and vice chair of the House Committee on Public Education, said there is an even simpler solution to decreasing local property taxes and that’s increasing state funding for local school districts.
“Look, the state used to fund the public schools up to 50 percent of all school finance dollars. Now it's down to 36 percent and that’s forced local school districts to have to raise their taxes to generate the revenue that they are not getting from the state,” Bernal said.
Bernal said property taxes are too high, but added that’s because Abbott and the Republican Legislature rely on rising school district property tax collections to balance the state budget. He said the current Abbott tax plan would only minimally reduce the average homeowner’s property taxes.
“This is mostly cosmetic. If you really want the taxpayer to feel it, to say, ‘Wow, look at my bill, it is remarkably different, I can breathe a lot easier,’ school finance is the only way to really do that,” Bernal said.
Abbott said under the plan, cities and counties would be allowed to exceed a 2.5 percent revenue cap for public safety and infrastructure needs, like hiring additional police officers and firefighters to keep up with population growth, but only with local voter approval.