Texas Politics

Gov. Abbott: Property tax reform is ‘emergency’ as Texans wait for relief

Property Taxes 101: How can you protest the value of your home?

Think you're paying too much in property taxes? Engagement/opinion editor Shelley Kofler sits down with Jeff Law, chief appraiser for the Tarrant Appraisal District, to explain how to protest the value the county has assigned to your home.
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Think you're paying too much in property taxes? Engagement/opinion editor Shelley Kofler sits down with Jeff Law, chief appraiser for the Tarrant Appraisal District, to explain how to protest the value the county has assigned to your home.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made no bones about it.

He wants state lawmakers to find a way to give Texas property owners some tax relief.

On Tuesday, he even declared this an emergency item.

“If we are going to keep Texas the economic engine of America, we must rein in a property tax system that punishes families and businesses and prevents younger Texans from being able to achieve their dream of home ownership,” Abbott said during his State of the State address in the Texas House of Representatives.

“We can no longer sit idly by while property owners are reduced to tenants of their own property with taxing authorities playing the role of landlord,” he said. “Our constituents are counting on us.”

Rising property values have led to large increases in tax bills, so much that some fear being taxed out of their homes.

Last week, Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced a “property tax reform” plan.

The proposal — as outlined in both Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2 — is called the Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2019.

It would limit property tax revenue growth to 2.5 percent a year as well as make information about proposed tax rates more accessible to property owners and make it easier for Texans to share their thoughts about proposed tax rates to local officials before any votes on those rates occur.

State leaders have vowed to work together to try to make things better for Texas property owners this year.

Part of that, Abbott said, requires limiting “the ability of taxing authorities to raise your taxes.” Another part includes putting more money into Texas education, he said.

Abbott’s designation of certain items as emergencies lets lawmakers take them up sooner than would otherwise be allowed under various rules and limitations.

Skeptical Texans

The property tax plan comes after other proposals died two years ago when state lawmakers couldn’t agree on how much to limit the ability to raise tax rates.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley is among those have said the state needs to put a lot more money into education, since taxpayers in 2017 paid $8 billion more into public education than the state did.

As for limiting taxing authorities, Whitley recently told the Star-Telegram that’s “the same finger-pointing we’ve heard before, that local governments are the problem.”

He and other local officials have long said a low revenue cap can hurt their ability to raise money needed to balance their budgets.

Abbott “has been utterly tone deaf during his time in office,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Abbott will need to do more than shuffle our tax dollars and line the pockets of powerful corporations and the rich.

“He will need to meet Democrats at the negotiating table.”

Helping Texans

On Tuesday afternoon, many groups such as Texas Retailers Association, Texas Apartment Association and Texas Association of Business praised Abbott’s call for property tax reform.

Abbott said Tuesday that keeping property taxes in check will give power back to Texans.

“That’s why I propose the ability (of taxpayers) to fire their property tax appraiser and elect a better one,” he said. “By taking these actions, were going to do far more than just reform our property tax system.

“We will ensure seniors who have worked their entire lives are going to be able to afford to retire in a home they’ve already paid off. We will give hope to the next generation of Texans, that they too can realize their dream of home ownership,” Abbott said. “And we will ensure that middle and low-income Texans can remain in the neighborhoods they cherish.”

Texas House Republicans say they are ready to get to work on this and other items the governor declared as emergencies.

“We will provide meaningful change in the lives of all Texans,” House Republican Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows said in a statement. “Texas House Republicans are ready to take up the governor’s call and get to work on these priority issues.”

The Tarrant County Judge repeated his position, to the North East Tarrant Chamber of Commerce, on how the state, especially the senate, plays a large role in how local tax rates are determined.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.