Property tax relief debates continue as Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick – who typically goes head-to-head against House Speaker Dade Phelan on the issue – is now turning his attention to Governor Greg Abbott’s support of the House’s proposal to provide property tax cuts.
This comes after the Governor suggested tax rate compression or lowering the public school district taxes to reduce all property taxes and the House adopted new legislation that aligned with Abbott’s recommendation.
Because the Senate’s new proposal, Senate Bill 1, provided relief through tax compression, but still included Patrick’s priority of increasing the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000 – the House promptly rejected the Senate’s version, immediately passed their own and then adjourned Sine Die last week.
At a press conference he held Tuesday afternoon, Patrick denounced the House’s actions and said the body could not oppose the Senate’s version on the basis it went against what the Governor requested as there is “solid law and precedent” that governors can’t prescribe what is within a bill.
“It (House law) really says that the House can put up anything they want and so could the Senate if both chambers agree and if the Governor does not veto it, so there’s no excuse here,” he said.
The lieutenant governor then criticized claims Abbott made at a press conference held last week, where he said that the House’s plan would put the state on track to eliminate property taxes entirely.
Patrick said that this was “fantasy” and would instead drain Texas’s budget surplus, leaving no money for anything else.
“This is a joke perpetuated by some people – not the governor – somebody reeled him into this, and he just said it,” Patrick said. “I’m not blaming him, he would not endorse this, the Governor is not going to endorse this. Are you kidding me? Spend every dollar on property taxes, where you have nothing left?”
"Are you kidding me? Spend every dollar on property taxes, where you have nothing left?”
According to Patrick, the House’s proposal focuses on increasing property tax cuts for “everyone” including business owners and people who own property in Texas but live out of state. Although this measure has received support from financial organizations and small business owners, it would cause homeowners’ tax cuts to be diluted, he said.
Whereas, the Senate’s version prioritizes property tax cuts going toward local homeowners, with around $1,225-1,250 to $1,400 (depending on whether the homeowner is older than 65) going back to that homeowner vs. the $740 the House’s proposal would provide.
Patrick said the numbers spoke for themselves and that there would be no way that Abbott would veto a bill that included homestead exemptions if it were to go to his desk.
If Abbott did, and the two leaders were still in disagreement, Patrick said he would invite the Governor to a “Lincoln-Douglas style” debate.
The lieutenant governor made it clear the Senate was unwilling to back down on its version of providing property tax relief but said their negotiation of 70 percent of the funds set aside going toward tax compression and the other 30 percent for increasing the homestead exemption was still on the table.
Patrick said the House should return so they could hammer out a finalized version of the legislation for the Governor to sign. He said since the Senate never gave permission to the House to adjourn – which both chambers are supposed to do – house members could find a way to come back.
Or Phelan could tell the Senate to adjourn Sine Die and then ask Abbott to call them back for a second special session and they would start all over, he said.
The Senate did convene later on Tuesday evening, before recessing until Wednesday at 9 a.m.