Capitol Update: Property Tax and School Finance Reform

February 2, 2019

As we complete the fourth week of the legislative session, we are starting to see the priorities of this legislature take shape as bills are filed and priorities are laid out.  Next week, Gov. Abbott will deliver the State of the State address to the House and Senate.  In this speech, the Governor will lay out his priorities and set forth which issues are emergency items for this legislative session.

One of the little-known facts about the Texas Legislature, is that our state Constitution prevents us from passing legislation in the first sixty days of each regular legislative session.  The only exceptions to this rule are items that the Governor designates as emergency items.  I know that my colleagues and I are looking forward to the Governor’s speech next week to see which areas we will be able to immediately start working on.

Representatives from both Shelby and Henderson County came to Austin for Child Advocacy Centers of Texas Capitol Day!

As I’ve discussed with many of you, one of the legislative priorities that was set forth this session is school finance and property tax reform.  This past week, Gov. Abbott, Speaker Bonnen and Lt. Gov. Patrick held a press conference to unveil the property tax reform portion of these priorities.  After their press conference, HB 2 and SB 2 were filed which lay out the House and Senate’s property tax reform plan. The text of HB 2 can be found here and SB 2 here.

The highlights of the House’s plan include reforms to the appraisal and protest system for how property values are set.  While the property tax rate is an important part of the equation, many homeowners are dismayed by the rate of growth they see in their valuations.  While it is important to have a fair value, it is also important to have a fair and reasonable protest procedure for those who think that their property has been valued too high.

Carthage High School’s two State Officers for Career and Technology Student Organizations, Mary Katherine Smith and Logan Mohr, stopped by this week.

The plan also requires that each taxing jurisdiction publish a “no-new-revenue tax rate”.  This is the rate at which the jurisdiction would collect the same amount in taxes that were collected in the previous year, which would take into account increasing property valuations.  This is the rate at which we would begin to cap the growth of property taxes through reforming the rollback rate.

The rollback rate is the point at which voters have the option to seek electoral approval of a tax increase.  The rollback rate is currently 8%, and requires that citizens petition for a rollback election if a taxing entity proposes an increase above 8%.  Under HB 2, the rollback rate would be reduced to 2.5% and an election would be automatic for a rate increase above that amount.  This acknowledges that a community may have a need to increase their tax rate for specific items, but would require the citizens to give their approval for such an increase.

Panola College stopped by to visit on Community College Day!

While HB 2 is in the very beginning of the legislative process, I am confident that it is a great starting point to provide property tax reform for all Texans.  I am committed to working with Speaker Bonnen and Gov. Abbott as we move through the legislative process and provide Texans with the reforms they are demanding.

If you have thoughts, questions, or concerns about HB 2 or any other legislation or potential legislation, please contact me.  I can be reached at 512-463-0556 or