Seriously, 2.5%?

It’s early yet, but I’m wondering if and when we’re going to hear from some Republicans about Gov. Abbott’s bonkers plan to reduce the annual property tax increase from 8% to 2.5%.

Two years ago, you’ll recall, the Senate passed a bill lowering the cap to 4%, while the House passed on that would lower it to 6%. In the end, both died in a pissing match between Joe Strauss and Dan Patrick.

I’ve long-assumed that this 2.5% talk is just posturing –– a negotiating tactic. I am still inclined to believe that. But it is disconcerting how seriously the supposedly reasonable Speaker of the House, Dennis Bonnen, appears to be taking this idea.

Two things stood out at Thursday’s joint appearance of Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and newly elected House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. They are still in sync on everything like taxes and breakfast. They and the legislative sponsors of property tax bills — Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, and Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock — gathered for the news media to say they were on the same wavelength, filing identical bills in the House and Senate.

I was talking to a senior budget official at the city recently who said that a 4% limit would be tough but the city would be able to endure it. But 2.5% doesn’t even allow for the city to pay for basic growth.

And keep in mind, this tax cap has nothing to do with limiting the ability of governments to raise the tax rate. This is about limiting how much revenue they can collect as a result of property value increases.

However, until Bonnen and Patrick can explain how they’re going to provide all of this new money for schools that they’ve promised, it’s hard to take this tax proposal seriously. As Ross Ramsay explains:

But they haven’t said where the state money will come from. Nobody in the state government’s high places has proposed raising a tax, cutting other state spending to produce money for education, or weeding through the state’s tax exemptions and loopholes to shore up the state’s share of the public education load.

Assuming the state passes some kind of cap, this leads to tough questions for the city’s own tax policies. For starters, you can bet that the city will be done raising the homestead exemption for a while since they’ll want every penny available to maintain city services.

Hopefully Gerald Daugherty and other elected Republicans who understand the value of local government can talk some sense into Bonnen. Because I know they can’t talk sense into Patrick and Abbott.

Leave a Reply