With Obstacles Out of the Way, Texas Senate on Track to Pass Property Tax Overhaul Bill

AUSTIN -- The Texas Senate is on track to pass priority legislation to slow property tax growth by curbing how much school district and local governments can collect. Senate Bill 2, by Houston Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt, amended his bill on the floor in what could be perceived as an attempt to compromise with local government leaders who vehemently oppose his legislation. For cities, counties and special taxing districts, Bettencourt offered a new revenue cap of 3.5 percent a year, rather than the 2.5 percent which was originally proposed. School districts would retain a 2.5 percent cap -- however, school funding is presumably being made whole by separate legislation to increase state funding for schools. The bill would limit the local districts from increasing local property tax revenue by 3.5 percent -- or 2.5 percent for schools -- every year. The cap could be exceeded if the taxing districts held elections and votes approved the increase. Currently, local governments can increase property tax revenue by up to 8 percent a year without the threat of an election. Local city and county leaders have overwhelmingly opposed the bill, saying the legislation caps their main revenue stream and will hurt their ability to fund critical government services including police and fire protection.The legislation was in trouble last week, when it looked like the upper chamber lacked the votes to bring the legislation up for debate. The Senate requires 19 members to agree to hear a bill - and Amarillo Republican Sen. Kel Seliger said last week that he opposed the bill. Seliger's opposition along, with the Senate Democrats, meant that the Senate was one vote shy of being able to debate the legislation. On Friday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, said he'd push through a rule change to ensure the legislation is passed. On Monday, Seliger announced that while he still opposed the legislation, he would not block the vote because he was against the idea of Patrick pursuing the rule change.   Continue reading...

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