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This is why Texas should eliminate school property taxes


Contact: Noah Betz; 281-928-2089

This commentary was originally published in The Dallas Morning News.

DALLAS, TX, June 6, 2023 — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate are traveling down the wrong road by going all in on raising the homestead exemption.

This has been done multiple times in the past and has unquestionably failed. Patrick has been and will continue to be the most conservative Republican to ever hold his office. I served in the Texas Senate with him for four years and understand that he can be stubborn and forceful, but usually for the right reasons. Not this time.

Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas House are finally waking up to the fact that the current divide over property taxes is, in many ways, unnecessary. Conflicts over homestead exemptions, corporate tax abatements and the property appraisal system would disappear if property taxes were simply eliminated.

Hours after the 88th Legislative session ended, Abbott called a special session, based upon part of my tax plan, saying that in order for Texas to eliminate property taxes, we must first buy down school property tax rates to zero using our massive current and future state surplus. This is called rate compression.

Should this compression become law, we will have just started our work to eliminate school property taxes. The Texas Legislature must control spending growth at both the state and local levels, compression should be repeated every session until the school property tax is gone, we must freeze school property tax rates, and we must pass a constitutional provision to make permanent that the state will pay all school taxes.

Once the school tax is eliminated, all taxpayers will see an unimaginable tax cut. Rental rates will fall. First-time home buyers can qualify for a mortgage. Businesses will hire hundreds of thousands of workers. Tens of billions of dollars will be put to work by millions of Texans expanding the economy and pursuing their own happiness. Prosperity and liberty will flourish.

We justify the buy-down approach by pointing to continued growth in state revenue that increased on average by 10% per biennium. That is the 15-year average. Over time, there will be enough money to pay for the buy-down. Now, there may be an occasional biennium when money is tight. In such cases, the state can use the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the rainy day fund, which is designed for such instances.

The House, which I am often very hard on, has sent the Senate legislation that puts Texas on the path to eliminating school property taxes and provides equal property tax relief to all Texans: homeowners, renters and businesses.

For some reason, despite the monumental alignment of the governor and the House, the Senate has decided that it will stand by its decision to increase the homestead exemption for a fourth time, putting a Band-Aid on the issue and giving short-term relief to homeowners. This is treating the symptoms, not the problem.

We truly have an unprecedented and historic opportunity to finally have leadership aligned to phase out the school property tax without increasing or adding any new taxes.

The state of Texas collected tens of billions of dollars of surplus revenue! They usually just find ways to spend those surpluses, but due to healthy pressure, we have a historic opportunity to give that money back to the citizens and offer permanent property tax relief. It’s a solid start. We must seize the moment. Patrick and the Senate must get aligned with phasing out the M&O school tax.

The Senate’s plan to increase the homestead exemption should not become law. Their only way forward is to agree with the House and raise the bet: Add another $10 billion to compress the rate and be a true leader for all Texans.

The Senate has been adjourned all week. We will see if my former colleagues decide to buck Abbott, the House and the best interests of all Texans. It would be good for my friends in the upper chamber to remember that as the politics of personality play out in ways bizarre and perverse, Texans are tired of renting their property from the government.

All eyes are now on the Texas Senate. Will Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick take the first step on the path to eliminating school property taxes for all Texans?