Lawmakers work on deal to cap property tax growth

State lawmakers are working on a deal to fulfill one of their big promises for this legislative session – relief for homeowners burdened by property taxes.

The House on Tuesday dropped its own version of a tax relief bill and adopted a Senate bill instead.

Senate Bill 2 limits the ability of cities, counties and school districts to raise property taxes beyond 3.5 percent a year. Beyond that, they would have to ask voters for approval.

Local governments oppose the bill, saying it shifts the burden especially on growing areas where there is a need for more construction and personnel.

But backers of tax relief believe that some Texans, especially retired citizens, are being priced out of their own homes by rising taxes.

The bill does not lower taxes. It only limits their growth.

“When will we have tax relief for small businesses? When will we have tax relief for people at home? Because this bill is not tax relief,” said State Rep. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio.

“This bill does not lower anyone’s property taxes. This bill was never designed to,” said State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican from Lubbock. “I have never said it would. From the beginning to the end, this bill is not intended to do that. It is simply giving people more insight into what is going on an opportunity to engage in the process and a little bit more control over the process.”

The House passage of the property tax limits depends on the Senate approving a House bill.

It does lower school property taxes, which are the biggest part of most tax bills. And it funnels more money into public schools.

The Senate is debating that now.

The differences between the House and Senate will be worked out in what’s called a conference committee. Members will have to come up with one bill to send to the governor to fulfill on of his promises.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he is confident that what he calls historic legislation, combined with additional reforms will reach his desk. He promised to sign them into law.