Misleading Stats Fuel Republicans' Effort to Cap Local Property Taxes

AUSTIN — Led by Houston Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a group of lawmakers presented misleading data at hearings designed to foment anger about rising property tax bills, which senators falsely claim have grown nearly three times as fast as Texans’ ability to pay.More than 50 hours of frustrated testimony — from all the major metro regions, including Dallas – are being used as evidence to support a bill that would limit the power of cities and counties to control funding for basic services, such as police, park maintenance and road work.Noting property tax bills — which have risen sharply in tandem with home values – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick formed the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief to gather evidence before this year’s legislative session.Last year, the committee embarked on a roadshow, holding daylong hearings in Plano, Houston, Arlington, San Antonio, Lubbock and Harlingen.It’s not difficult to get Texans riled up about tax bills, but one chart, which glowed on a projection screen for hours, alarmed even city and county officials who argued against the state nipping at local tax authority.Committee Chairman Bettencourt presented the chart, created by his staff, which compared the growth of statewide property tax collections to median household income. The line graph showed that over the last decade, city and county tax collections soared by 82 and 71 percent, respectively, while median household income rose much more slowly, at about 29 percent.That conclusion, the fulcrum for the committee’s criticism of local property tax growth, is technically true.But it’s also nonsense, economists say.  Continue reading...

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