Keyword: Property Tax
One of the final acts of the third special session of the 87th Texas Legislature was the negotiation of SJR 2, a measure that, if approved by voters in May, would increase the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000 beginning with the 2022 tax year. Property taxes have been a perennial source of griping, especially in areas of Texas experiencing rapid population growth, rapidly rising home values, and the corresponding increase in property tax bills. Of course, as policy makers have been frequently reminded during the long real estate boom in Texas, in Texas’ growth obsessed but revenue-constricted political economy, efforts to reduce property taxes enough for voters’ to actually feel the effects of legislative action are severely constrained.
While the primary driver of that constraint is fiscal, another major constraint is public opinion. A decade of polling on property taxes illustrate that many voters notice those rising property tax bills, but are likely to be unimpressed with what ultimately amounts to legislative tinkering in efforts to validate some sort of claim that the incumbent government is addressing voters’ concerns.
Judgments about the actual policy achievements of the 86th necessarily await their implementation and evidence of sustainability. In the meantime, legislative incumbents will hope to bask in the faint praise they earned in 2019, while worrying that they might well be drowned out in another election year defined by the deafening volume of chaotic national politics.
The Texas Senate’s rejection of the much-hyped proposal by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House to ask voters to approve a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax has produced what passes for high drama in the Capitol. The Senate’s outright rejection of an approach promoted by its presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, only worsened the already obvious problems in the House, where Democrats are publicly unified in their opposition amidst lower-key but palpable skepticism among House members who have to run in GOP primaries next year. (Shortly after the original version of this post appeared in TribTalk on May 7, the House sponsor of the bills pulled them from consideration, all but guaranteeing the death of the sales tax increase.)
The latest University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, which Ross Ramsey wrote about in a batch of stories released through the week, covered a range of subjects and issues with an emphasis on the current legislative session. As always, we’ll continue to mine the data and connect it with happenings at the legislature as the session kicks into a higher gear, but below are a first set of observations, hopefully more than hot takes but certainly less than the in-depth treatment we’ll give them in coming weeks.
This week brought a surprising (no really) amount of news on sanctuary cities enforcement and significantly quieter news on the franchise tax and ongoing budget negotiations between the Texas House and Senate. At the federal level, with President Trump's 100th day in office closing in, many have been inexplicably surprised (including House Republicans) by the frenetic energy emanating from the West Wing.
With all the bills that are going to get filed now in the system, the committees in both chambershttp://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/calendars/html/S120170313.htm will get even busier, and there is likely to be at least some drama in the Senate as one of the headline-grabbing pieces of legislation thus far in the session hits the intent calendar in the upper chamber starting Monday. There will also be some other matters that have been on the public's mind, too.
It was a week in which Texas political headlines were generated by characteristically low-turnout Constitutional and local elections and the release of interim charges by the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives – which is to say, it was a week for insiders.
Halloween is upon us, but it's already been a scary week for Jeb Bush and homeowners thinking about their property tax bills – but Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are trying their best to calm everyone down. Calm by nature, Dr. Ben Carson started the week off early causing a stir with his proclamation that he's against abortion in cases of rape and incest, while two of Texas politics' more animated politicians – Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz – essentially endorsed each other. Both Patrick and Governor Abbott also endorsed the legislature preventing so-called sanctuary cities in Texas, but not enough to require legislators to haunt Austin in a special session. Finally, President Obama followed the lead of Texas in pressing for a reduction in standardized testing – a treat for kids and their parents, who increasingly told pollsters they find frequent high stakes testing pretty ghastly.
The era of “what, me worry?” when it comes to the effects of the oil boom came closer to the end this week with the comptroller’s downward revision of his revenue estimates, a revision based largely on the effects of the collapse in oil prices. The Lt. Governor followed with his serial interim charge announcements calling for “options to further reduce the tax burden on property owners.” On the national stage, the vacuum created by the recognition that being Speaker of the U.S. House is a one-way ticket out of electoral politics led some GOP members to launch trial balloons. Meanwhile, over in the Democratic Presidential nomination race, Hillary Clinton reminded Democratic voters that she’s the pro in the race with a mostly sharp, funny performance that also showed her shrewdness by effortlessly getting to Bernie Sanders’ left on guns. Speaking of guns, the media was buzzing – and in some cases seemingly altering their policy on language appropriate for family newspapers – with the announcement by some activists at UT-Austin of a protest against the new campus carry law that will involve the open carry of dildos.