In just two months, there will be a legislative session where lawmakers will be asked to answer a statewide call for property tax relief.
We sit down with Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt to unload on the botched election, the prospect of property tax relief, and the massive surplus awaiting lawmakers in Austin.
**Read the full transcribed interview below**
Greg Groogan: State Senator Paul Bettencourt, first things first, two, arguably three elections here in Harris County major elections all debacle, what happened?
Sen. Paul Bettencourt: Well, it's abominable that a government puts on an election. And then they don't give voters ballots so they can cast their ballots. That's really what happened here. Between that and machine difficulties. And the fact that election judges are just crying out for more ballots. It really is voter suppression, because people went to the polls, and they couldn't vote.
GG: Senator, do you believe there are enough votes potentially in question to potentially alter outcomes?
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PB: Well, I know for sure that Governor Abbott started an investigation of the Texas Rangers and the Secretary of State. And I know that the Secretary of State's been flooded with complaints about what happened in Harris County because they weren't following the law. Because quite frankly, if you don't have enough election supplies, that's a Class C misdemeanor, and the warehouse was full of paper, full of ballot paper. And if you don't give it out, willingly or effectively, if you deny somebody that election paper, it's a Class B misdemeanor. So the investigations underway, and I predict multiple election challenges. How can things devolve in the 21st century to where an elections administration team doesn't give ballots out? Like that?
GG: Senator, what do you say to people who suggest this is just partisan bickering? Is it deeper than that?
PB: These are real voter irregularities that have to be researched and investigated because they could have made the difference in the election. And I've never seen the public so outraged.
GG: Roughly two months from the legislative session, Governor Abbott tells us we have a $27 billion surplus and we also have Texans telling you that they need more property tax relief, despite your best efforts and delivering in the past, what can we expect?
PB: If you have excess cash you go through a formula and they give about half of it back to the public. And the key thing will be is giving it out over time, so that there's not a big down, tick, and then and then a huge updraft afterwards. So you have to make sure that your nest egg lasts long enough to give people long-lasting property tax relief.
GG: The big problem a lot of people think is the appraisal districts and the expanding, exploding value of their homes based upon the comps or the comparative sales in their neighborhood. Is there any way to reform that process?
PB: Well, yes, because as values go up, tax rates need to come down. That's the whole purpose to balance the equation. I'm proud of what we've done to this point. But we do have more money and more resources to be able to do more about the problem. Texas really is getting 13% more sales tax money per year, which is why we have the 27 billion to be able to hand back out for tax relief. It really is the job mecca capital of the country. Everybody is coming here. And the problem is, is that that puts tremendous pressure on the real estate market because values really are up. I'm always going to be looking to control the cost of government because that drives everything. Like we said, if we hadn't passed all this property tax relief legislation, we'd have government coffers exploding, and we would not have any way to stop that expense. Because once government spends more money, wants to spend another 10% every year, and then soon, that's what drives people out of their homes.
GG: The Republicans on the statewide ballot busted out the broom one more time. What does that tell you about Texas?
PB: It's a pro job, you know, pro economy, you know, pro-family, pro-business, you know, you know, what I think is a good vision for Texas as future and the public has overwhelmingly agreed with it. So I think you'll see the Republicans listening because we won big, but it's better to win big and continue to listen to look for the future. Because that's what all this is about. If you have the right policies, Texas gets bigger, better, and stronger over time and that's saying something because we're pretty bigger, better, and stronger right now.