Sitting in the back of the Laredo auditorium on Wednesday night, I was struck by the level of frustration. These were hard-working folks I was listening to, most arrived in pick-ups and older cars; none belonged to a country club.Â The event was a free training seminar on how to protest property tax appraisals; I had been asked by the organizer to come and talk about the results of the legislative session.
Some of the stories I heard from these folks was heart-wrenching. Despite the property tax rate reduction generated by the business tax swap, appraisals are rising at double-digits. One man told of his businessâ€™ property going up just under 100 percent. And, yes, he had his documentation. Another lady is worried she cannot keep some land her family has had for three generations.
No one in the room fit the popular stereotype of the low-tax agitator, because none of them are. They are frustrated, angry taxpaying and voters. These were all people just trying to get by, but their property taxes are killing them.
These are the very people who would have benefited from some additional tax relief this legislative session; additional tax relief that never came. These were the very people who desperately needed the property tax appraisal system reformed that was killed in the Texas House by Local Ways & Means Chairman Fred Hill of Richardson.
Fortunately, everyone in the room was ready to turn their frustration into action. Not only are they protesting their own tax appraisal, but they are eager to vote for reformers â€“ local, state and national. They are mad; mad at Democrats, mad at Republicans. Mad that their property tax bills go up, up, up, and mad the lege did nothing to reform property appraisals.
This Laredo experience isnâ€™t uncommon; indeed, it was pretty tame. In the last several weeks Iâ€™ve addressed all sorts of groups across the state â€“ some political, some civic. At each one, the overwhelming sentiment mirrors what I found last night. Whether it was the retired African-American lady in Austin, the Anglo businessman in Grimes County or the Hispanic farmer in Laredo, all have reached the same conclusion: change is needed, because the politicians are failing us.
The people want change and are eager for the solution. The solution, of course, is in our hands â€“ reinforce the good guys, vote out the bad guys, and commit to watching our elected officials a lot more closely. Thatâ€™s a little simplistic, of course, but thatâ€™s the basic formula.
There is a tax revolt brewing around the state, whether the politicians and their handlers want to admit it or not.