Property Tax Hack Finally Gets Senate Nod

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (l) and Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo (Photo by Jana Birchum)

For two months, the 2.5% property tax revenue cap legislation launched in January has been stalled in both chambers, as lawmakers try to sort out how the "relief" and "reform" proposals will impact local government budgets – including school districts – at the same time as they overhaul school finance. In the Senate, where Senate Bill 2 flew out of committee as fast as possible, the holdup has been Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, a former mayor who opposes the bill's draconian fiscal limits, and who cares little for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Without Seliger's assent, under Senate rules SB 2 could not reach the floor, leading Patrick to fuss and fume and threaten a "nuclear option" until Seliger finally backed down on Monday. From there, the SB 2 debate went predictably: As a concession to cities, counties, and other taxing districts who (unlike the schools) don't receive much state aid, the bill now proposes a 3.5% rollback rate (compared to 8% under current law) for those entities. That minimal gesture was all Democrats and local leaders were going to get, as bill author Sen. Paul Betten­court, R-Hous­ton, turned back one amendment after another to soften SB 2's impact on different places, services, and constituencies, leading to the final 18-13 party-line (except for Seliger) vote. (For Betten­court, who thumped this tub for years as Houston's tax collector before taking Patrick's Senate seat, forcing cities to ask their voters each year to approve their budgets – an effective impact of SB 2 – is not a bug but a feature.)

Next week, the chambers trade places, with the House tackling property taxes and the Senate school finance; conferees will then sort out the final package and make it conform to the approved biennial budget...

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More 86th Texas Legislature
Bad Bills Bite the Dust at the Legislature
Bad Bills Bite the Dust at the Legislature
Anti-voter, anti-worker, anti-woman, pro-slave-owner bills dead – for now

Mary Tuma, May 24, 2019

Chick-fil-A, Saved by the Legislature
Chick-fil-A, Saved by the Legislature
Religious exemption bill heads to governor's desk despite testimony from LGBTQ Caucus

Sarah Marloff, May 24, 2019

More by Mike Clark-Madison
City Council: Activists Push for Austin Public Library Policy Change
City Council: Activists Push for Austin Public Library Policy Change
While the dais considers Convention Center expansion, scooters

May 24, 2019

Austin City Council Prepped to Tackle Palm District, Micro-Mobility, and More
Austin City Council Prepped to Tackle Palm District, Micro-Mobility, and More
A preview of the May 23 Council meeting

May 22, 2019


86th Texas Legislature, Property Tax revenue cap, SB 2, Kel Seliger, Dan Patrick, Paul Bettencourt, Bryan Hughes, SB 9, Texas Civil Rights Project, MOVE Texas Action Fund, James Slattery, HB 583, James White, Jerry Patterson, Jarvis Johnson, Buffalo Soldiers, Jeff Leach, HB 896, Donna Howard, Jessica Farrar

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle