Under Governor Greg Abbott’s (R) order, the Texas Legislature is in a special session, which began with the House swiftly passing H.B.1/H.J.R.1, legislation that would implement Governor Abbott’s property tax relief proposal. Property tax is certainly needed in the Lone Star State because according to the Tax Foundation, Texas is home to the nation’s sixth highest average property tax burden.
“The Texas House is the only chamber that passed a property tax cut bill that is germane to the special session that I called to provide Texans with property tax relief,” Governor Abbott said after House passage of HB1. “It provides more cuts to property tax rates than any other proposal at this time. It is supported by the most respected tax think tank in the state, as well as more than 30 homeowner, consumer, and business groups across the state. I look forward to signing it when it reaches my desk.”
H.B. 1/ H.J.R. 1 will lower the school district property tax rates for all property owners by $ 0.16 per $100. In exchange for lower school property tax rates, the state will provide $12.3 billion to schools to make up for the loss of funding. The $12.3 billion came from funds that had been set aside by the House and the Senate in the budget passed during the regular session.
In a livestream event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Governor Abbott reaffirmed the House’s approach, adding that he wants to eliminate property taxes entirely.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick responded in recent press conference, during which he touted the Senate’s property tax plan and criticized the plans offered by Governor Abbott and the House. Lt. Governor Patrick called Governor Abbott’s goal of property tax eliminate a “fantasy.”
“If you live in a million-dollar house, you get a $100,000 exemption,” Lt. Governor Patrick said in defense of the Senate’s approach. “If you live in a $100,000 house, you get a $100,000 exemption. Their plan of all compression, the higher-priced house you live in, the more you get.”
The House and the Senate are still in a gridlock over how they want to pass the property tax relief bill while Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, and Speaker of the House Phelan are negotiating on a deal.
“It’s great that state officials are discussing the best way to provide property tax relief that is much needed for struggling families across the state,” said Vance Ginn, senior fellow with Americans for Tax Reform. “But the best way to provide the biggest bang for tax relief is to maximize the return of surplus state dollars to buy down school district maintenance and operations property taxes which is being advocated for by Governor Abbott and pushed by the Texas House.”
The months-long standoff, however, could be coming to a conclusion, with the Texas Tribune reporting this week that Governor Abbott is open to a compromise between the House and the Senate proposals.
“One thing I let both of them know — the only way that legislation gets to the governor’s desk to be signed into law is for the House and Senate to work together,” Abbott said during a June 12 new conference. “The good news is they understand that and they are working together. The most important thing is that they work together to hammer out their differences and get a bill to my desk as quickly as possible.”
The current special session ends on June 28th. Texans, who face the nation’s sixth highest average property tax burden, are hoping that legislators in Austin reach an agreement soon. If that does not occur, however, Gov. Abbott has already made clear he’ll call another special session and will continue doing so until lawmakers reach a deal.