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Texas Senate Finance Committee Approves Property Tax Reform Bill SB2

Texas State Capital
Texas State Capitol Building

The Senate Finance Committee approved Texas Senate Bill 2, the Property Tax Reform and Relief Act, by a 9-5 vote. The bill would force local governments to hold elections if the amount of property tax revenues increases by a certain amount. It also seeks to change the makeup of many of the boards that oversee appraisal districts. Currently, an 8% property tax increase or higher allows voters in a city or county to gather signatures to call for an election on the new rate. The bill would lower that threshold to 4% and would require an automatic election.

Debate in the committee lasted long into the night, featuring contentious testimony from both sides. “This is a rough crowd,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who chairs the finance committee.

“[The bill] is a way to slow the growth of government and a way to slow the growth of tax bills,” said state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican who sponsored the legislation. 

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was vocal in her opposition to the bill, arguing it would weaken local officials' ability to provide services and maintain infrastructure. 

The state's lack of an income tax puts a heavy burden on sales and property taxes. While the state takes a portion of sales taxes, only local entities receive property taxes. The result is the vast majority of property taxes going to school districts. Critics of the bill, like state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, questioned the bill's lack of efforts to rework the state's education financing. 

The discussion also featured passionate input from taxpayers. A McKinney resident highlighted taxing entities’ inability to prioritize, stating, “Local government blows money on football and baseball stadiums, then jacks up property tax rates." Another taxpayer said, “It is time for we the people to assert our authority and control the rate of increase in property tax bills.”