The Texas House gave initial passage Saturday to a bill requiring voter approval for large cities and counties that try to raise property taxes by 6 percent or more.
A final vote will be Sunday, setting up a showdown with Senate Republicans who have pressed hard for automatic elections when local governments raise property taxes by 4 percent or more. A conference committee will likely be needed to iron out the differences.
The issue is Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priority of the summer special session, which ends Wednesday.
During Saturday’s sometimes tense debate on Senate Bill 1, the House sponsor made it clear that the goal was to increase taxpayer input, not lower property taxes.
“It does not provide one ounce of property tax relief. It’s not intended to. Anybody who suggests that is giving you bad information,” said Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton. “This does absolutely nothing to lower anyone’s tax payments.”
The only way the Legislature could lower local property taxes, Bonnen added, would be for the state to pay “a greater share of the cost of education” because the majority of property taxes in Texas go toward public schools. That, however, is a debate for another day, he said.
The House turned aside an amendment by Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, to force a rollback election for property tax increases of 4 percent or more — an attempt to return SB 1 to the original threshold adopted last month by the Senate.
The House also rejected an amendment by Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, to raise the election trigger to increases of 8 percent or more.
Opponents said the rollback election rate could cripple cities, many of which devote a majority of their spending to public safety. Current law allows local taxpayers to petition for a rollback election if property tax increases top 8 percent.
Seven Democrats voted for SB 1 on Saturday. No Republicans voted against.