Property tax rate change limits go to conference committee with

Property tax rate change limits go to conference committee with House passage

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AUSTIN, Texas -

The Texas House of Representatives tentatively approved the Texas Taxpayers Transparency Act with a 107-40 vote Tuesday night. The act, also known as Senate Bill 2, would cap how much some property taxing entities could raise rates before requiring voter approval. It would not reduce anyone's property taxes on its own. 

The House approved the Act with some high level changes, including raising the "rollback rate" -- the percent change that triggers an election -- for city and county governments, as well as other taxing entities, to 3.5%.

The bill does include school districts in that cap, but only symbolically; a cap on school revenue changes must be addressed in a school funding bill, or it doesn't hold legal water. School districts generally make up more than half of a property owner's tax bill.

Six hours of debate preceded the vote; opponents emphasized to House members that most increases in property taxes are attributable not to changes in rates, but changes to appraisal values. They said hamstringing a city's ability to raise revenue threatens public safety, by far the most expensive item in local budgets.

Supporters, including Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) --  who wrote the bill and chairs the revenue-raising House Ways and Means Committee -- said the bill is a big step towards true property tax reform. Before the vote, Burrows said that hasn't happened since the '70s, and Texas taxpayers deserve it. He said it's up to cities and counties to prioritize public safety before slashing other budgets to compensate for more expensive items.

Senate Bill 2 is contingent on lawmakers passing the House's school funding proposal, a $9 billion package that includes more money per-student for school districts, raises for teachers and staff, and rewriting how the districts receive state money. If that package doesn't pass, the property tax proposal does not go into effect.

Rep. Burrows said the school bill also includes property tax relief, and capping cities and counties alone isn't enough.

The proposal will now go to conference committee. Once any differences are hammered out or other amendments offered to align House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 -- each chambers' version of the same bill -- it will go to another vote, then to the governor for approval. In a statement released after Tuesday's vote, Gov. Abbott said Texans have watched their taxes skyrocket, making them tenants of their own property. He promises to sign the proposal when it reaches his desk "to deliver lasting property tax relief to every Texan."

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