With weeks left in the Texas Legislature’s 88th regular session, state lawmakers are working to enact the largest tax cut in the history of the nation’s second most populous state. In addition to billions of dollars worth of property tax relief, state legislators are moving to enact a number of innovative reforms before adjourning. Texas should unite to push these measures across the finish line.
Gov. Greg Abbott and leadership in the Texas House and Senate all want to pass a massive property tax relief bill but differ over the best approach. The Senate would like to raise the homestead exemption. The House, however, would rather cut the appraisal cap in half, taking it from 10% to 5%, and put more money toward rate compression than is called for by the Senate plan. Disagreements over these key details threaten to squelch planned relief. Lawmakers should work out a deal before the session ends.
“Texas has a historic opportunity to provide much-needed property tax relief with nearly $33 billion in surplus for the current biennium plus extra taxpayer money available in the upcoming biennium, which should be returned to taxpayers,” noted Texas-based economist Vance Ginn, a senior fellow at Americans for Tax Reform.
In addition to reducing property tax payments in a state that is home to the nation’s sixth highest average property tax burden, Texas lawmakers are also taking action to reduce regulatory costs. The House passed House Bill 2127 by a 92-55 vote on April 19. HB 2127, introduced by Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, and Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, prohibits local governments from regulating products, activities, or industries in a manner that exceeds or conflicts with state law.
Proponents of HB 2127, such as the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses, say it will rectify the patchwork of regulations that currently exist in Texas, which is making it more difficult for a business to operate and create jobs.
“There are dozens of reasons why Texas is the best state in the country for business, but its convoluted, unpredictable, and inconsistent patchwork regulatory system is not one of them,” said James Quintero, policy director at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Quintero says HB 2127 “brings some much-needed common sense to the system, unifying the rules for conducting business in a predictable, reliable, and efficient way to promote compliance.”
Lastly, Texas lawmakers have the opportunity to make Texas the first state to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying by enacting Senate Bill 175. SB 175, introduced by Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, would bar local governments and other political subdivisions from using taxpayer funds to hire contract lobbyists.
Supporters of SB 175 note that contract lobbyists hired with taxpayer dollars frequently work against the interests of taxpayers. In previous sessions, for example, taxpayer-funded lobbyists have worked to kill property tax relief and block reforms that would have government spending grow at a more sustainable clip. This resistance to conservative priorities continues to this day, with taxpayer dollars currently being spent to lobby against Education Savings Accounts.
That is why many view SB 175 as a root reform that will beget many other pro-growth reforms. Proponents of SB 175 believe it will help facilitate the future passage of tax relief, ESAs, greater spending restraint, and other pro-taxpayer reforms.
As we saw with the criminal justice reform movement that started in Texas and has since swept the nation, enactment of a given reform in Texas makes it easier to pass that same proposal in other states. That’s because lawmakers in many state capitals look to Texas as a model for sound governance. As such, while passage of the aforementioned reforms would benefit Texans, their enactment will also have a positive effect nationally.
Hopefully Texas lawmakers can capitalize on these opportunities before them in the remaining weeks of session and send these groundbreaking reforms to the desk of Abbott, who has made clear he wants to sign them.
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. He wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.
Originally published at Dallas Morning News.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D.