Bromance on the Rocks? Failed Push to Hike Sales Tax Splits Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Longtime Ally

AUSTIN -- One of Texas’ most enduring political partnerships is showing signs of wear and tear.For about two decades, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sen. Paul Bettencourt have fought for lower property taxes and staunchly conservative causes as collaborators in Houston grass-roots politics and talk radio.But this session, they’re having a public spat.This week, Bettencourt’s defiance of state GOP leaders helped scuttle their plan for a deeper cut in property taxes -- paid for with an extra penny of sales tax.While Bettencourt says that he consistently opposed the idea and that critics are overstating his role in tanking it, the episode embarrassed Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott.Both had stuck their necks out to try to win voter approval this fall of a permanent swap of consumption tax for significantly lower school property taxes.The proposal divided conservative grass-roots activists, with some singing Bettencourt’s praises.“Governor Abbott and Republican lawmakers are kidding themselves if they think they are doing anything other than ‘Californizing’ Texas,” Empower Texans leader Michael Quinn Sullivan said last week in an email blast criticizing the proposed tax swap.In two earlier email blasts, Sullivan approvingly quoted Bettencourt’s line, “We’ve never had a swap that worked.”Some staunchly conservative GOP loyalists, though, are steamed that Bettencourt undercut the attempt by Patrick, Abbott and Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, to win voter approval of a dedicated stream of additional sales tax revenue that would be used to reduce school districts’ maintenance and operation, or M&O, tax rates.“Patrick is absolutely righteous on this,” said Terry Holcomb Sr. of Coldspring, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee who is chairman of the state GOP’s legislative priority committee for eliminating the M&O property tax.  Continue reading...

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