COMMENTARY

Property owners deserve tax relief

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Imagine working hard all your life, buying the home you always wanted, and living in a friendly neighborhood. That’s the American Dream!

But today, too many Texans are in danger of losing their homes because of rising property taxes. Too many seniors are watching their property tax bills rise, while their retirement income stays the same. No Texan should have to sell their home because the government keeps raising property taxes each year.

I believe that homeowners deserve property tax relief. My wife and I are homeowners like many of you. We are subject to the same taxation and have experienced annual increases in our property tax bill. Even while the school district, city and the county hold their tax rates steady, or even cut their tax rates, our property tax bill goes up.

Between 2014 and 2017 my property tax bill has increased over 43 percent. I believe that reform is needed to prevent people from being taxed out of their homes.

The majority of Texans also want stricter limits placed on local government’s ability to increase taxes. This past session I voted in favor of a bill to slow the growth of property taxes.

Disagreements between House and Senate negotiators resulted in the failure of the bill. This was a missed opportunity and to me it is a major disappointment. I remain committed to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to reach an agreement that helps homeowners with their property taxes. 

Under current law if a city, school district or county raises taxes more than 8 percent, the citizens can petition for a rollback election to either approve the new tax rate or “rollback” the tax rate to the existing rate. A tax increase of 10 percent would result in an automatic election.

The House passed a bill requiring an automatic election if a local tax increase is 6 percent. When the bill was on the House floor I voted in favor of an amendment to lower that amount to 4 percent. The amendment did not pass and the final version of the House bill, which I also voted for, remained at 6 percent. When the Senate passed their version of the bill they voted for a 4 percent automatic election.

What would you recommend if the Senate bill said 4 percent and the House bill said 6 percent? Do you think offering the body the chance to vote on a 5 percent limit would be a good compromise? I certainly believe it would be acceptable, but it was not to be. The negotiators in the two chambers were not able to reach a compromise. I never got a chance to vote on a compromise bill. Due to the deadlock the bill did not pass.

The failure of the bill left homeowners without a new mechanism to keep local property taxes in check. It is true that neither version of the bill would have reduced taxes, but it would have slowed the growth of property taxes.

I want to hold government more accountable, so it taxes less, spends less, and does more to cut waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. The best place to start is through substantial property tax relief that will allow families to afford their dream home now and in the future.

Government has no right to tax Texas families out of the home they worked their whole lives to buy. Government has no right to force seniors from their home, because of unending hikes in property taxes. I will make property tax reform priority number one in the next legislative session because our families, homes, neighborhoods, and quality of life are worth protecting.

Representative Dale is Vice Chairman of the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee and is a member of the Environmental Regulation Committee and he is Chairman of the Texas House Energy Caucus. He represents southwestern Williamson County, Cedar Park, Leander, Brushy Creek, and parts of Austin and Round Rock.

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