Editor’s Note: If you’d like to receive an email notification whenever we publish Ross Ramsey’s column, click here.
If you’d like to listen to the column, just click the play button below.
Property taxes are higher in Texas than in almost any other state. Voters know this, and when voters are interested, so do the people who depend on those voters for their political survival.
That’s why, in less than six hours on Monday, Texas lawmakers went from a blank sheet of paper to unanimous support for a constitutional amendment that would increase the amount of the property tax exemption for homeowners to 40. $ 000 from the current $ 25,000.
It won’t move the state lower on the overall list – only five other states have higher property taxes than we do, according to the Tax Foundation. This statistic doesn’t get much attention from officials in Texas, who are busy explaining to business executives in California and other states the benefits of living in a state that has no income tax. personal income.
It’s enticing, and one of the reasons Texas currently attracts personal and corporate moves. It’s also why property taxes are so high and why the state has the 14th highest in the United States and local sales taxes in the United States, according to the Tax Foundation.
But increasing the homeowner’s exemption is costly: it would cost the state nearly $ 2 billion over the next five years. That’s big in the eyes of the state, but it would put an average of just $ 176 back into the pocket of the average homeowner each year. It would reduce local school property taxes collected for public education and assumes, but does not guarantee, that the state will offset what school districts lose with other taxes collected by the state.
Even with these caveats, let’s bet that in political ad next year some lawmakers will be touting the âbillions of dollars in property tax breaksâ they put in place in this last legislative session.
This is a direct offer for owners who vote. It does nothing for tenants or owners of commercial and industrial properties like lower property tax rates would. A larger reduction would affect all landowners – and, if you’re a true optimist, could also trickle down to people who rent in their homes – but extending the reduction to more landlords would also reduce the size of each owner.
If voters approve this constitutional amendment next year, homeowners will each receive an average of $ 14.67 per month, and that assumes that this is even visible to these taxpayers in an era of rising property values ââand rising prices. constant increase in tax bills.
It’s probably good for political ads, but that monthly total won’t buy lunch for a family of four.
The legislation has passed through the Legislature, after the House and Senate approved very different tax breaks earlier in the Third Special Session. Monday morning, it was just an idea. On Monday night, he was on his way to the May poll, where voters will decide whether he belongs to the state constitution or to the junkyard.
This testifies to the political weight of property taxes. It’s one of those questions that interests ordinary voters – those who ignore the daily barking of partisan office holders and their subordinates. And he received a recent opinion from pollsters at the University of Texas at Austin, who wrote about his persistence as a sore point for voters in the state. (Their previous poll also warns lawmakers: Small tax cuts like this, they wrote, aren’t enough to make a difference for most families.)
Four years ago, voters in Texas were pretty clear about their dissatisfaction with the high property taxes that several secure incumbents across the state – including the lieutenant governor, attorney general and commissioner of agriculture – s are drawn on election day. And in the legislative session that followed in 2019, heads of state put aside the cultural issues that drive political activists in favor of school funding and property tax cuts.
They were scared, and it showed.
This year, the Legislature has gone through a long Tory wishlist, adding new laws allowing most adults to carry guns without a license, banning abortions after the first five or six weeks of pregnancy, restricting electoral practices that made it easier to vote during the pandemic, preventing transgender athletes in public schools from competing on teams that match their gender identities, and so on.
These were victories for the Republicans, but they wanted to hit one more base on the way out, kissing the owners a kiss and hoping that was enough to keep the property tax rebellion at bay.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.