More than a year ago, by forming the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief and placing it in the hands of state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick put property taxes high on the agenda for the 2017 legislative session.
Bettencourt, a former Harris County tax assessor-collector, was a property tax reformer long before he was elected to the Senate in 2014, making him and Patrick kindred spirits.
On Tuesday, after holding eight public hearings around the state and studying the property tax system for 11 months, the committee issued its report and Bettencourt filed Senate Bill 2 incorporating its findings.
There’s ample evidence that property taxes have been rising sharply — since 2005, up 60 percent in Fort Worth and 50 percent in Tarrant County. The influence of new business and residential construction vs. taxes on properties already on the rolls is less clear.
Two key elements of the report and Bettencourt’s bill would bring radical change: allowing only 4 percent growth in tax revenue (down from the current 8 percent) before triggering a possible taxpayer election, and calling that election automatically instead of in response to a petition drive.
This is not the first reform effort since the property tax system was adopted in 1979. Much is yet to be heard from cities, counties, school districts and other entities on the effect of these proposals.
Tax relief would feel good, but not if it hobbles local government.