Can the House and Senate compromise on property tax relief this special session?

Some feel the Senate’s version of the bill offers a good compromise. Time will tell if the House agrees.

By Sarah AschJuly 5, 2023 11:02 am,

As the second special legislative session enters its second week, it is still unclear if the House and the Senate will find a compromise on property tax relief.

Lowering property taxes is something both chambers appear to see eye to eye on when it comes to the broad objectives. But they’re still very much in disagreement when it comes to the issue of how to get there.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, who covers the Capitol for the Texas Newsroom, said each chamber has started to pass their versions of the bill.

“The Senate last week passed their version of that proposal. It raises the homestead exemption to $100,000. It also redirects funds to buy down the school districts’ maintenance and operations taxes – that’s called compression,” he said. “The Senate last week also did something new that we haven’t seen them do before, and instead they added an amendment in one of those bills that would provide a $2,000 supplemental payment for teachers in urban areas and a $6,000 supplemental payment for those teaching in rural communities. Now, that would be like a one-time payment over the next biennium, but it’s something that they had not included before.”

Meanwhile, the House appears poised to pass a similar measure to what it passed during the last special session, which includes compression but no homestead exemption.

Martínez-Beltrán said the one-time payment for teachers might entice some Democrats in the House to support the Senate’s plan.

“The Senate maybe was trying to sweeten some Democrats in the House, maybe put some pressure on some Republicans and Democrats in the other chamber, because it would be really bad, you know, about optics for them to vote against such a (payment) for teachers,” Martínez-Beltrán said. “I do think, though, that in the Senate last week when they ended up passing this raise and attached it to this bill, it really was a big moment of bipartisanship.”

The amendment that included the payments was introduced by Sen. Roland Gutierrez, the Democrat who represents Uvalde.

“Gutierrez has, over the past few months, fought with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over other issues like gun safety and gun control and with some of his other colleagues,” Martínez-Beltrán said. “But during this particular issue, he was the one who presented the amendment, and it was unanimously approved by the Senate. So I think it also sends a signal to the House that the Senate is together on this issue, that they agree on their proposal and now the ball is in the House’s court.”

Martínez-Beltrán said that because the Senate’s version of the bill includes both compression and raising the homestead exemption, some lawmakers consider it a good compromise between the two chambers. The disagreement over how best to accomplish property tax relief comes down to both politics and policy, he said.

“Without a doubt, it also has to do with the egos of these two leaders of the Texas Legislature, of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and of House Speaker Dade Phelan,” he said. “Remember, during that last special session, which happened last month, House Speaker Dade Phelan and the House passed a compression bill, which was what Gov. [Greg] Abbott wanted, and adjourned sine die on the first day and left Austin and left the Senate pretty much to decide whether to pass the House version or to keep working.”

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