House votes to move forward on property tax bill

Lawmakers working through the weekend as special session deadline approaches

The Texas House debates a property tax bill on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Tim Holcomb)
The Texas House debates a property tax bill on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Tim Holcomb)

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  After hours of heated debate Saturday, the Texas House voted to move forward on the property tax bill. With the special session set to end on Wednesday, lawmakers are working through the weekend.

Senate Bill 1 aims to limit the rising property taxes Texans are required to pay. However, it could also limit cities, keeping them from providing services taxpayers need and expect.

The bill would require voter approval on property tax increases in larger Texas cities. The House’s version would require a vote if city leaders want to propose an increase of six percent or more than the previous year. The Senate’s version would require a vote for an increase of four percent or more.

“The citizens will have a greater role in their taxes,” said Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, who supports the bill.

Workman said if a city really needs more money for important services, city leaders should make their case to voters.

“If it’s a legitimate reason to raise the taxes, then I trust the citizens to vote for it,” Workman said.

Lawmakers who oppose the bill said it would hurt cities and won’t make much of a difference in what property owners pay.

“More than 50 percent of your property tax bill goes to schools,” said Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin. “That was not part of our discussion on this bill. It was looking at local jurisdictions other than schools, which would have a very negligible effect on your tax bill.”

Senate Bill 1 would still need one more vote in the House before going back to the Senate. The bill died in the regular session and was one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priorities in the special session.

“The governor has indicated this is very important to him, and I presume that if we don’t get this done then he might call us back,” Workman said.

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