A valiant attempt by the Texas Freedom Caucus to fix a watered-down property tax reform measure failed on the house floor tonight. A minority of House Republicans joined Democrats to prevent lawmakers from strengthening a key provision of the bill.
Conservatives want to give Texas voters a public vote on property tax hikes. But cities and counties have lobbied lawmakers with fierce opposition.
In response, the Texas Senate exempted midsize and smaller communities from having to face voter approval for tax hikes. After the measure made it out of House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), even more parts of the bill had been removed or weakened.
Prior to hearing amendments on the House floor, Bonnen notified members he had “made a deal” with other Straus appointees to impose a gag order, by agreeing to not accept any amendments on the floor. The gag order was never approved in committee, but was rather used as rhetorical leverage by Bonnen during floor debate to threaten killing the measure altogether.
Surprisingly, a majority of House Republicans were joined by a few Democrats to strengthen the bill, but lost the vote. A minority of Republicans and nearly the entire Democrat caucus voted to table an amendment authored by State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), which would have further empowered taxpayers.
Shaheen proposed lowering the rollback rate from 6 percent to 4 four percent, which is the same threshold passed in the Senate’s version. Under Shaheen’s limit, governments could still raise property taxes 3.99 percent per year before having to seek voter approval.
Bonnen successfully convinced the body to cave to pressure from liberal Republicans and government lobbyists.
Predictably, the watered down SB1 passed the House with unanimous support from Republicans, who will return to their districts claiming they passed property tax reform.
In reality, many of them voted to ensure that very little was done to empower taxpayers from local government abuse.