Voters should automatically be given a voice on excessive property tax increases.
State law does not currently require that all local governments obtain voter approval for tax hikes that exceed the state’s “rollback” limit. The “rollback” limit is essentially the percentage localities can increase property taxes on the existing tax base before voters have the option to challenge it.
While school districts are required to hold public elections on excessive tax increases, cities, counties, and other localities are not. As a result, local officials habitually take advantage of taxpayers who have no effective remedy to stop them.
Under current law, taxpayers only have one option—a burdensome petition drive.
In both rural and urban areas, this onerous process requires that taxpayers collect an overwhelming number of voter signatures over a very short period of time – and hire lawyers to protect their validity – before a public vote on the proposed tax increase is triggered.
Politicians routinely instruct their staff to fight and discredit these efforts. They also spend taxpayer money on lawyers to resist holding public votes, forcing citizens to file expensive lawsuits.
Upon closer review, it becomes obvious that state laws pertaining to the citizen-petition process were designed to thwart voters in favor of money-hungry governments. These petition requirements should be replaced with automatic elections.
If history is any guide, local governments and their tax-funded associations such as the Texas Municipal League will vehemently oppose any reform aimed at empowering voters. Lawmakers have a simple choice—either side with local politicians and their tax-funded lobbyists, or Texas taxpayers.