Thursday, January 31, 2019

#TXLEGE: Big 3 look serious on Property Taxes (while Democrats could be worse)

"But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
Nehemiah 5:15

[Note: We're having formatting issues putting them on this website, but both press conferences can be viewed via the Trib.]

This morning, the Governor, Lite Guv, and Speaker held a press conference to announce their joint property tax proposal.  The most important takeaway is that the House and Senate are beginning with identical bills.  That'll dramatically simplify negotiations down the line.

The unity means local governments will no longer be able to to play off the House vs. the Senate.  Speaker Bonnen specifically said, "those days are over."  Locals can engage productively, but they can no longer derail the process.  While nobody said it out loud, the contrast with the previous speaker is obvious.

The bill would require voter approval for all tax hikes over a 2.5% threshold alongside transparency enhancements.  Obviously, it's not everything we'd have liked.  But it's a gigantic step in the right direction and should be treated as such.  Nothing from today's press conference precludes using school finance reform to produce further property tax relief.

Another interesting nugget: Speaker Bonnen suggested appraisal reform was "easily deliverable to the Governor's desk."  He expected such reforms to pass with "overwhelming bipartisan support."  Good Deal.

Following the Big 3 press conference, Trey Martinez Fischer and Eddie Rodriguez held one for the Democrats.  Representative Fischer promised to ask "tough questions" about revenues.  He also stated his willingness to "agree to disagree" with the Speaker's starting position.  Coming from Trey Martinez Fischer, that could have been a lot worse.

Representative Rodriguez said he "wants to know how it will impact school finance" before committing to the Governor's plan.  That's not unreasonable.  Representative Rodriguez also announced that he was working on his own bill.  As a constituent, we're eager to see Representative Rodriguez's counteroffer for the property tax relief East Austin desperately needs.

Bottom Line: A lot of work remains to be done, but today's signs are encouraging.

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