Texas Senate approves, again, bill to limit local property tax hikes


The Texas Senate on Monday approved legislation that would require cities, counties and special government districts to get voter approval for property tax rate hikes of 4 percent or more.

Current law allows residents to petition for a tax ratification election for increases of 8 percent or more. Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, would cut the so-called rollback rate in half and make the elections automatic.

“Property tax payers are crying out for relief,” Bettencourt said. “The public knows that if there’s a case that’s made from elected officials that they should spend more of their hard-earned money, they’ll vote for it. But if there’s not such a case there should be protection” for taxpayers, he said.

SB 1 was approved shortly after 9 p.m. on a 19-12 vote, with all Republicans but Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, voting in favor and all Democrats opposed.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pushed repeatedly for the bill during the regular session and the Senate passed a bill in March that would have set the automatic rollback election trigger 5 percent tax rate hikes.

The House, however, passed a watered-down version that did not become law.

Between Democrats who see the bill as an attack on cities and some centrist and rural House Republicans who view it as an affront to local control, the bill may not have the votes in the House.

On Monday, Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, noted that the bill is unlikely to save a substantial amount of money for taxpayers because a majority of property tax levies in Texas comes from school districts, which are not included in the bill.

“Why are we focused on cities and counties when the solution is to fix the school finance system?” he said. “Over the years, the state has diminished its contribution toward education and imposed the burden on school districts.”

Sen. Jose Menéndez, D-San Antonio, said the ability of cities and counties to meet public safety needs could be impeded by what he called an arbitrary 4 percent rate increase to trigger a rollback election.

“I think it’s an artificial rate. I’m not sure how you came to that rate,” he said.

The Senate voted 17-14 to approve an amendment by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, that would exempt more small taxing jurisdictions from the bill.

The bill originally exempted cities, counties and special districts with fewer than $10 million in annual property tax revenue. Perry’s amendment, which expanded the exemption to those with $20 million in combined property and sales tax revenue, was approved over objections from several Republicans, including Sen. Konni Burton of Colleyville.

“I want to treat all of them the same. I’m not going to go back and say some of you have to vote to opt in,” Burton said.

Senators also adopted two related amendments:

• Small jurisdictions that fall under the $20 million cap would be required to hold an election on whether to opt in to SB 1’s rollback election requirement. The change was proposed by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway.

• An amendment by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, would require those smaller governments to hold a rollback election for any property tax increase above 8 percent, eliminating the need for citizen petition forcing the vote.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Killing of Alabama housewife reveals secret life on internet
Killing of Alabama housewife reveals secret life on internet

The killing of an Alabama housewife outside her suburban home on Jan. 13 revealed signs of a double life on the internet, several news outlets have reported. The body of 42-year-old Kathleen Dawn West was found outside her Calera, Alabama, home, WTVT reported. Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley said his department is treating the case as a homicide...
Michigan doctor who came to US in 1979 detained by ICE
Michigan doctor who came to US in 1979 detained by ICE

A Michigan doctor who came to the United States nearly 40 years ago has been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, WXMI reported. Lukasz Niec, who works at Bronson Healthcare in Kalamazoo, came to the United States from Poland with his parents in 1979. His family said Niec had a green card and permanent legal resident status...
JUST IN: Body found burned in Bastrop County last week
JUST IN: Body found burned in Bastrop County last week

The Bastrop County sheriff’s office is investigating a suspicious death after a body was found burned on the side of the road Thursday, authorities said. Donald Ray Davis, 23, of Austin was found dead around 6 a.m. on Jan. 18 on the north end of North Pope Bend Road, Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook said. His body was burned, however Cook...
UPDATE: One person injured in shooting at high school in Italy, Texas, report says

10 a.m. update: One person has been injured in the shooting at the high school in Italy, Texas, according to WFAA in Dallas. The injured person has not been identified, but has been taken to the hospital, WFAA says. Earlier: Police in Italy, Texas responded to a shooting at the town’s high school on Monday morning. An Italy Police Department...
Suspect in custody after 1 shot at Texas high school, officials say
Suspect in custody after 1 shot at Texas high school, officials say

Authorities are investigating after receiving reports Monday morning of a shooting at a high school in Texas, the Ellis County Sheriff's Office confirmed.
More Stories