Legislators Agree on Overall Budget, Setting Proposed Amount for Property Tax Relief

Although there is still much to be determined when it comes to how property tax relief will be provided, Texas lawmakers have decided on a potential portion of the state budget to allocate to fund it.
Although there is still much to be determined when it comes to how property tax relief will be provided, Texas lawmakers have decided on a potential portion of the state budget to allocate to fund it. Screenshot
On Thursday, Texas legislators were able to reach one agreement on the widely-debated topic of property tax cuts – allocating $17.6 billion in property tax relief as part of a final proposed state budget of $321.3 billion to be spent over the next two year.

This initial amount – pending approval of the budget’s final vote in both chambers expected on Saturday – is an increase from the original proposed budget that called for $16.3 billion to go to property tax relief.

Of that amount, budget writers allocated $12.3 billion to fund new tax cuts and $5.3 billion to maintain existing tax cuts. These include the current homestead exemption of $40,000; an additional $10,000 to this exemption if you are disabled or 65 years of age or older and additional tax cuts that are available to disabled veterans or their spouses, households that operate on renewable energy and charitable organizations or businesses, according to the Texas Comptroller’s office.

Although this is amount outlined in the budget, it may be contingent on how lawmakers decide to provide these property tax cuts to home and business owners – which still hasn’t been determined.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan have been at odds over this issue throughout the session.

Patrick’s priority is increasing the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $70,000; while Phelan supports lowering the state’s appraisal cap from 10 percent to 5 percent – which Patrick strongly opposes.

The only thing Patrick and Phelan, along with their prospective chambers, agree on is that some of the money set aside for property tax relief should be given to public school districts to enable them to cut their tax rates.

The first sign of possible compromise between the two lawmakers and chambers came last week when the House revised Senate Bill 3 – legislation that addresses property tax relief – and included a boost to the homestead exemption that was higher than what the Senate’s original version proposed.

In the House’s new proposal, the homestead exemption would be raised to $100,000 or $110,000 for homeowners who are 65 years of age or older. This additional increase for older residents is another nod to what Patrick wanted added to the property tax relief plan.

Despite the House’s attempts, there is yet to be any indication that Patrick changed his mind about lowering the appraisal cap.

Neither the homestead exemption nor the appraisal cap was addressed in the budget directly; however, the amount they are setting aside could allow for the increase that they are proposing to the homestead exemption.

Senate Bill 3 was sent back to the Senate and is pending approval of the revisions made by the House. If legislators do not pass the bill with the adjustments added, it will go to a conference committee.

If that happens, the proposed legislation must be in conference committee by Friday or otherwise the only chance to pass the measure would be if Governor Greg Abbott placed the bill under consideration during a special session.

Which is highly unlikely, as Abbott has already indicated that if he calls a special session it will be for one of his main legislative priorities, school vouchers.
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.