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Senate Passes Property Tax Reform, But Bill Faces Tougher Sell In House

Protests by local governments helped convince House leaders to KO an identical measure during the regular session. In the special session, its Governor Greg Abbott’s top priority.


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The state Senate has passed property tax reform, but tax relief for Texans is far from a done deal.

Currently, local governments in Texas can increase property tax rates up to 8 percent each year. The Senate bill, SB 1, would lower that cap to 4 percent for all but the smallest districts. Anything above 4 percent would trigger a public vote on whether to allow the tax hike or reverse it. The bill is all but identical to one the Senate passed in the regular session, and which the House let die.

"The House is somewhat more attuned to the concerns of local governments that dropping it to 4 percent will mean that it will be difficult for them to keep up with rising costs," says Kellen Zale, an assistant professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

The House is now considering more than 30 property tax reform bills of its own. That all but guarantees any bill out of the House will look different from the Senate's. But Zale says compromise is possible.

"Maybe it's the number," she says. "Maybe it's the trigger number. So maybe instead of 4 percent, maybe it'll be 6 percent, you know, somewhere in between 4 and 8 percent."

Governor Abbott is putting his weight behind the issue. In an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, the governor stressed property tax relief is his top priority for the special session. But he stopped short of calling on the House to pass the Senate's bill as is.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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