Talk includes boosting sales levy
The incoming Legislature will attempt to relieve the property tax burden on Texans, but depending on their approach, they could be in for a titanic struggle with cities and counties that oppose revenue caps.
In a town hall meeting on property tax issues Thursday night, the notion of legislative limits on property tax revenues that fund schools, cities and counties drew support from a GOP lawmaker and a conservative policy analyst. Arguing against the concept were county and city officials who warned of problems if there’s less local control of government income.
Panelists also tossed around the idea of the state eliminating property taxes in favor of a heftier sales taxes, a conservative proposal that drew support from County Judge Nelson Wolff. But Wolff said short of such a drastic reform, there’s not much to be gained by legislative tinkering that “nibbles around the edges” of the problem: Ever-rising valuations prompting higher tax bills.
The town hall meeting, co-sponsored by the Express-News, University of Texas at San Antonio and Spectrum News, came on the same day that Bexar County residents were receiving the 2016 tax bills in the mail. Although Bexar County slightly reduced its tax rate to offset rising valuations, tax collections will still increase.
Joining Wolff on the panel were Texas Municipal League President Mary M. Dennis, mayor of Live Oak; state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels; and Texas Public Policy Foundation local government scholar James Quintero.
Campbell, an ally of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, said Texans can be assured that lawmakers will address these and other tax issues when they convene in January. Since late 2015, a select Senate committee has been holding hearings around the state to explore proposals that would impact property tax revenues.
“When we are looking at how we can decrease the tax burden on us Texans, all the tools in the toolbox need to be out there,” Campbell said.