At TFR we have been sounding the alarm that now is the time for property tax reform for months. We have put forth a practical and attainable plan to accomplish this. This message has resounded with grassroots and even other fiscal organizations. However, the more important question is, “will the Texas legislature move on this idea?” It appears as though at least two strong bills have been filed to accomplish school property tax elimination in the second called special session.
The first of the two bills is SB 81 and its constitutional amendment pair SJR 15. These are authored by Senator Angela Paxton (R-McKinney). These two bills work in unison with each other as a constitutional amendment. In simple terms, these pieces of legislation would dedicate 90% of budget surpluses each biennium to reduce the compression rate of school property taxes. These surplus funds would only be used to reduce the compression rate percentage of school property taxes. Currently, the bill and joint resolution have no co-authors and have not been referred to a Senate committee. With time dwindling in the special session, odds are these pieces of legislation will not make it through the process if nothing is done soon.
In the House, there has been one standout bill filed that would operate in a similar manner. HB 122 by Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) would attack the property tax problem in a similar manner. HB 122 specifically mandates using 90% of the state biennial budget surplus to reduce the compression percentage of school property taxes to the lowest level possible until it is zero. HB 122 has far better odds of passing based on the amount of support it has received in the lower chamber.
Currently, there are 54 total authors and coauthors for HB 122. There are a number of members that have refused to sign on despite bipartisan support. What is more surprising is the number of Republican members that have refused to sign on. This is perplexing because property tax elimination is part of the RPT platform. If more Republicans signed on, it would easily put the bill over the 76 author majority threshold, ensuring its passage. HB 122 has been referred to the House Committee on Appropriations but has not yet received a hearing. With time waning it is important to get this bill a hearing if anything significant is to be done on property taxes elimination this special session.
As it stands, Texans will never own their homes as long as we are mandated to pay the government perpetual rent. Will our Representatives hear our screams for help and pass this important legislation, or will they stick their fingers in their ears and ignore taxpayers?