Big Government’s Shine

Most big-government Republicans try to hide their anti-taxpayer ways, so in that regard Hugh Shine’s ugly honesty might be commendable. Yet that will be little consolation for taxpayers suffering under one of the nation’s most oppressive property tax schemes. And the way he frames the issue around a series of bald-faced lies eclipses the pretense of goodwill.

A mainstay of conservative tax reform has been to rein in the property tax system so taxpayers are more able to hold accountable the many local taxing entities that reach into their pockets. Under current law, taxing entities – from counties and cities, to hospital and water districts, and all other special purpose districts in between – can demand higher and higher tribute be paid by property owners with virtually no recourse. The system of appraising properties – the more important side of the equation that produces the final tax bill – is complicated, lacks transparency, and favors the taxing entities that control it.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Harris County) tried to level the playing field by offering a substantive tax reform measure, Senate Bill 2, which was endorsed by the lieutenant governor and has been praised by the governor. The bill would have required local entities to automatically seek voter approval if they sought to raise taxes by more than five percent. The end result would be that tax-and-spend bureaucrats at the local level would no longer be able to simply turn on the tax-funded faucet every time they needed to fill up their coffers to pay for frivolous spending.

The measure never saw the light of day in the Texas House, where an obstructionist House leadership driven by liberal Republicans and backed by Democrats sought to kill any reform measure threatening to limit how deeply local bureaucrats can reach into citizens’ pocketbooks.

Since the session ended, Gov. Greg Abbott has said he is reconvening the Legislature in mid-July to – among other things – bring about property tax reform.

Yet State Rep. Shine (R-Temple) is doubling down on opposition to that very reform. In an article published by the Temple Daily Telegram, Shine claims that SB2 was “sold out of the Senate as a property tax relief bill.”

That’s untrue. From the beginning, Bettencourt, other senators, and Lt. Gov. Patrick lamented that all they could offer was reform, because the House was intractably and publicly opposed to property tax relief measures.

Shine says his opposition to the measure was based on worrying that taxing entities would have to spend time and money defending their bloat to voters and taxpayers.

Ironically, Shine said his goal was to force “transparency out there so people could understand their property tax statement better.” He explicitly notes he refuses to work for property tax relief, or any substantial changes to the property tax system.

The Temple lawmaker wants to make sure that taxing entities and appraisal districts are happy with any proposed reforms before voting on them.

But you can bet they won’t be thrilled with the changes SB 2 would impose, given the boastful nature by which City of Temple officials proudly announce increases in property tax revenues within their budget. The city recently proclaimed their new budget “will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year’s budget by an amount of $1,780,804, which is a 7.50% increase from last year’s budget.”

Nearby, a City of Belton budget illustration perfectly lays out the “struggle” local officials endure whilst searching for ways to spend more taxpayer dollars.

Source: City of Belton Annual Budget Reports

How Shine will reconcile his hostility to taxpayers with the explicit position of the Republican Party or Texas’ platform, and Gov. Abbott’s special session, remains to be seen.

Empower Texans’ budget and policy analyst, Sal Ayala, also contributed to this article.

Tell the Texas Legislature: #PassThemAll

Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session of the Texas Legislature, providing each of you a second chance to pass conservative reforms that were killed in the House during the regular session.

"If I'm going to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for a special session, I intend to make it count," Abbott said as he laid out a robust, conservative agenda for the 30-day special session.

Abbott’s list of 20 issues is almost entirely comprised of major, conservative policy goals that taxpayers have been demanding for years. Issues such as property tax reform, strong state and local spending limits, and ending the government collection of labor union dues.

Each part of Abbott’s agenda would represent a major victory for citizens, and it’s time for both chambers of the Texas Legislature to stop rationing reforms, stand up for taxpayers, and answer his call.

My message is simple: #PassThemAll!

Help spread the word for lawmakers to PASS THEM ALL!


Let your friends know you are calling on legislators to #PassThemAll!

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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