Don’t expect Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to reform property taxes honestly in the special session that begins this week. The property taxes crisis infuriating Texans is a direct result of his party’s fiscal policies, policies he has no intention of reversing.
Rather than fund 60 percent of the cost of public education in Texas, as our state once did, Republican politicians led by Dan Patrick have dialed back support to less than 40 percent. This unwise policy has not resulted in better schools. It has resulted in higher property taxes as school districts raise taxes to keep up.
Said another way, the Republican-controlled legislature has deliberately shifted the burden of funding public education onto the backs of homeowners.
And it begs the question, if property taxes are going up, yet total funding for Texas schools is largely unchanged, who is coming out ahead?
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The answer is a stinging indictment of Patrick’s fiscal policy, and it reveals why Patrick cannot, and will not, fix property taxes. The owners of large corporations, whose tax bills keep going down thanks to cut after cut in the business margin tax, are pocketing the extra cash that results from rising property taxes.
Adding insult to injury, many if not most of these owners do not live in Texas. They are taking wealth out of our state, in the form of profits, by the truck load.
Forcing tax increases on Texas homeowners in order to give giant tax breaks to out-of-state corporations? That makes no sense.
It's a policy that works hard against the interests of working and middle class families. It’s a policy that works hard against retirees who want to stay in their homes. It's a policy that is hostile to a cherished Texas value: fiscal responsibility. And it’s a policy that I believe should be reversed.
Will Patrick reverse his party’s long-standing policy of cutting big corporate taxes and making Texas homeowners pay for it? No, he will instead attempt to deceive voters into believing that schools and cities and counties are to blame for our property tax crisis. And whatever absurd “solution” emerges in the special session, a solution that will be based on a fraudulent assertion, will be no solution at all. It will likely will do more harm than good.
The property tax crisis plaguing Texas can only be solved by calling on the people who live in California, and New York, and China, and India, and all the other places where big corporate shareholders live — shareholders who are growing rich on the bounty of our great state — to invest more of their profits in Texas schools, roads, and water infrastructure.
Texas was doing better economically before Patrick and his co-conspirators launched their crusade to cut taxes on big corporations and perpetrate their economic assault on working and middle class families and retirees.
The same Patrick, whose false claim of “meaningful tax relief” back in 2015 was met with rising property tax bills around the state, has been accused by the Texas Municipal League of offering a property tax plan that is “totally bogus.” Even a fellow Republican declared that Patrick’s property tax plan, for all its sound and fury, will not lower taxes.
Yet at the start of the special session Patrick is hoodwinking Texans yet again into thinking that he’s on our side when it comes to property taxes. Well, he’s not. He’s on the side of the big corporations, and Texas homeowners and small businesses are paying a very high price as a result.
As long as Patrick is in power his words have no meaning, and his policies will mean higher property taxes.
Mike Collier is a Senior Advisor to Duff & Phelps, LLC and is a former PricewaterhouseCoopers partner. He is a Certified Public Accountant, was the Democratic Party’s 2014 Nominee for State Comptroller, and he is currently running for Texas Lt. Governor.