Gov. Abbott, legislative leaders deflate property tax relief

Heading into the General Election, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he would support the “biggest property tax cut in the history of Texas.” And in his one debate with his Democrat opponent, Abbott answered a question about property taxes saying: “My goal is to eliminate the school property tax that is imposed in the state of Texas so that people can genuinely own their own home without being taxed out of it.”

So when Abbott’s State of the State address in which put forth his priorities and emergency items for the 88th Texas Legislature came around, it was interesting that among all the good talk on tax relief, two things were missing: A proposed number that would truly be the “largest” in Texas history and, support of the previously proposed move toward eliminating the local school Maintenance and Operations (M&O) property tax over time.

Gov. Abbott delivers his State of the State address.

Overall the list of priorities Abbott presented was strong and I’m supportive of such, especially authentic parental empowerment through real school choice, but I don’t support politicians playing on the ignorance of people to claim, as did Abbott, that he and legislative leaders are working on the “the largest property tax cut in the history of Texas.” They are not.

According to math done by Jeramy Kitchen at Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, when accounting for inflation, to be the biggest property tax cut in Texas history the reduction would need to be around $20 billion.

…more than a third of the promised $15 billion is to continue a buy down of local school property taxes… $9.7 billion… [is the total of] honest new property tax relief for Texans.

In the State of the State address Governor Abbott said: “Working with Senator Huffman and Representative Bonnen, we have all proposed using $15 billion to cut property taxes. Now we must ensure that it provides lasting property tax relief.”

$15 billion still sounds like a lot except when you realize that the numbers they are talking about do not even provide two-thirds of $15 billion in new tax relief.

According to the documents provided to the House Appropriations Committee from the Legislative Budget Board, and reported upon by Brad Johnson at The Texan, the $15 billion figure for property tax relief is broken down as: $3.1 billion to compress rates next biennium accounting for growth in property values; $2.2 billion to maintain previous compression from last session, and; $9.7 billion to fill the proposed Property Tax Relief Fund for new cuts.

image: Texas House of Reps.

The Texas House chamber.

That means that $5.3 billion, more than a third of the promised $15 billion is to continue a buy down of local school property taxes made in previous legislative sessions. That leaves less than a third of the promised $15 billion, $9.7 billion to be exact, as honest new property tax relief for Texans.

In summary, Governor Abbott has gone from pushing new property tax relief of around $20 billion to less than half of that number. It also means that legislators, sitting on a massive revenue surplus, are being disingenuous with voters in calling their proposal a $15 billion cut.

It is not time to dismiss Abbott and other legislators as slime-ball-lying-politicians on property tax relief. No, it’s time to call, email, fax, and write letters to state representatives and senators, as well as the governor’s office, and tell them we expect that “largest” property tax cut in Texas history, around $20 billion, and don’t take us for fools counting maintaining previous tax buy downs as part of that number.

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  1. I will email them. The problem is, not many others will take the time to contact them. There is a very small percentage of people that speak up/contact their representatives. I truly do not understand those that keep quite.

    • Pratt on Texas says

      You are right however because of that fact, it actually takes very few people contacting officials to make a difference on most issues.

  2. Michelle McFerrin says

    I can’t believe as a disabled person, that my taxes are still outta my reach…it would take an entire social security check of mine to pay for the taxes on the house I inherited in Lubbock…I had a person in the LCAD office tell me to just go get a job!!! There is a reason I can’t get a job…I’m disabled…so they really do not care about the taxes pushed on someone that is struggling to just survive. I am dealing with insulin dependent diabetes and have to get a bottle a week to use… they need to realize I got injured at age 42…not 62.

    • Jeremiah Lewis says

      You live in the wrong state. Bright red Texas thinks people on disability are freeloaders. That’s one of those entitlements they want to cut. Plenty of them would like to take your Medicare and social security too. Biden at least says he’s going to cap insulin prices that would help you out. We’ll see. Bernie is busy fighting Big Pharma even if Biden reneges on his promise.

      • Pratt on Texas says

        Jeremiah, you are so wrong. There are no proposals in the legislature to cut disability benefits managed by the state. In fact, all those funds are looking at increases. Having said that, many on disability are “freeloaders” but that doesn’t mean most people are. There has never been a serious audit that didn’t find much fraud in such programs. Bernie is a joke of a socialist and if you put your faith in that rabble, it makes it clear how worthwhile your opinions are.

  3. Alex Scarborough says

    I am for tax relief, HOWEVER I am in favor of local taxation for our schools. At the present time in Lubbock county we have at least 5 School Districts, LISD, FISD, CISD, Idalou and Shallowater. We can compare and contrast the operational expenses of each district and because we are investing in ‘our’ school district(s) we tend to pay much more attention to their expenditures and operations. If the funds came from a huge state fund to support our school districts, we would not have the connection that paying the direct taxes provides. Thus I think that the fox would play in the chicken coops if most of the tax payers did not have that direct link to the school via their tax payment.

    This falls into my belief that the best government is LOCAL.

    • Pratt on Texas says

      That local aspect of public education has done little to nothing across the state to hold the line on spending so while in theory it works, in practice it has not and thus needs re-evaluation. As to the property tax relief by local tax compression, there is little about that mechanism that changes the dynamic of the current funding model including the things you mention.

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