Senate Bill 1, limiting property tax increases, clears major hurdle

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AUSTIN - A top priority for Gov. Greg Abbott is advancing in the final days of the special session. 

House lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that aims to limit the amount that larger cities and counties can increase property taxes.

By a vote of 98-to-43, one of Governor Abbott’s top priorities is moving forward.

“So we have a choice today of whether we want to protect taxpayers by making significant progress or we can choose to give them nothing,” said Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R) of Texas House District 25.

Bonnen repeatedly said the measure would not save taxpayers money despite the Governor, Lt. Governor and other Senate Republicans saying otherwise.

“This is a bill that helps provide protections to taxpayers but does not provide one ounce of property tax relief. It’s not intended to and anybody who suggests that is giving you bad information,” said Bonnen.

The House's version of Senate Bill 1 would require an automatic rollback election if cities and counties wanted to increase property taxes beyond 6 percent. Currently, voters can petition for an election to roll back the tax rate if the city or county’s new revenue exceeds 8 percent. 

The Senate has set the rate at 4 percent and the differences will have to be worked out. 

“We had to negotiate very vigorously and I’ve made the commitment to them to not change this bill,” said Bonnen.

While Rep. Dennis Bonnen succeeded in fighting a total of 25 proposed changes to the bill, some lawmakers kept raising their concerns.

“There’s been a specific concern raised to me from cities and counties that this is going to negatively impact public safety. How do we deal with the fact that we may be negatively impacting public safety?” said Rep. Chris Turner (D) Texas House District 101

Bonnen argued cities and counties looking to raise the 6 percent limit would have to answer to voters.

“If they needed a reason to go beyond a 6percent to do so I would love to believe that they would go to their voters they would explain the situation and the voters would make that decision,” said Bonnen.

While cities and counties have aggressively opposed the measure saying it could hamstring their budgets others argue the only way to provide true property tax relief is to fix the state’s troubled school finance system.

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