Observations from the Recent Property Tax Hearings

Commentary by Senator Van Taylor

 

 
In the face of skyrocketing appraisals and a crushing property tax burden levied on working families and retired Texans on a fixed income, the Texas Senate will lead the fight for meaningful property tax reform with the leadership of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Last Fall, Lieutenant Governor Patrick appointed a Select Committee on Property Tax Relief and Reform. As a member of that Committee, I traveled the state listening to the people and I want to share some observations from the series of hearings in The Valley, San Antonio, Lubbock, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston.

 

First, let me state the obvious: without a vigilant eye defending the taxpayers, government will naturally consume everything in its path. In 1900, government was approximately 8% of gross domestic product (GDP), now it is around 42%. We must stop this inexorable rise. Currently, the property tax system in Texas embodies the most glaring evidence of this problem. According to data from the Texas Comptroller, between 2005 and 2014 property taxes grew approximately 2.5 times faster than the median household income. That growth is simply unsustainable. Worse, this growth prices people out of their home.

 

To add insult to injury, the rapid growth of property tax rolls come not as the result of local officials campaigning on higher taxes and voters rallying behind their plea. Rather, tax increases stem from an appraisal system that offers local politicians a vehicle to subvert the people with a backdoor means to increase taxes and government spending.

 

Crisscrossing the state, the committee did not hear from a single citizen taxpayer satisfied with the status quo. Not a single citizen approved of their property tax increases. And not a single citizen felt government stacked the cards fairly so that people can affect change in their community.

 

Meanwhile, government officials, taxpayer-funded lobbyists, and high-powered government consultants repeatedly lectured taxpayers on why local governments need more and more of the people’s money. They brazenly advocated for a government with unhinged power to grow as the political elite see fit.

 

The contrast is staggering. On no other issue have I seen such a divide between the will of the people and government interests. This divide exposes a system where government grows on autopilot without a mechanism for the people to check its power. Such a system, which seeks to silence the people, belittles the principles of our Republic and cries out for reform.

 

The more government takes, the less freedom people have to choose how they want to live their lives. Property taxes are even more personal. Our homes are more than just an asset for the government to tax. Our homes are sacred places where we enjoy family dinners, raise our children, gather to celebrate life’s milestones, build tree houses, set up lemonade stands, etch yearly height measurements into door frames, hang pictures, and make many other memories.

 

When I hear the fear in people’s voice, worried they might have to sell their home because the tax burden has grown too immense, my blood boils. Government exists to secure the rights of the people. The stories shared by homeowners through these hearings run contrary to this principle.

 

The Senate will keep listening and offer meaningful solutions that empower the people and provide much needed tax relief. However, the big-government forces have drawn a line in the sand, vowed to never compromise and fight us at every turn. Thus, citizens packed auditoriums across the state to express their grief and frustration. As I have said before, the only way to defeat the determined big-government forces is for the voice of the people to echo even louder. Join me!