All Gussied Up: Texas Republicans didn’t actually reduce your property taxes

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This is a first in an series called “All Gussied Up,” which chronicles how the right wing dresses up their incompetence when it comes to the governance of Texas.

You would think, after the most recent legislative session this year, that Texas lawmakers have never, in their lives, governed effectively. Then, the time they have a lukewarm session it’s the best thing in American history.

Gov. Abbott made an over-the-top/high drama video with epic music ticking off what he deemed as Herculean legislative successes. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, at a spectacular dog-and-pony press conference, said, “We have had the Super Bowl of legislative sessions in the history of this state, and I think in the history of this country.”

It was little league. 

These right-wing lawmakers are comparing their 2019 performance to the 2017 session, where they fought over bathroom bills and abortion and didn’t get anything done. So, let’s give them that. A step up, for sure. But the issue they are heralding as a B.F.D. was property tax reform. 

Their new law, signed by Gov. Abbott, is weak. Republican Ed Emmett, the former Harris County Judge, called the Republican tax law “snake oil’ and warned of multiple negative side effects.

“Beyond the impact on local governments, SB 2 is actually bad for homeowners because it keeps in place a complicated, convoluted property tax system,” wrote Emmett in the Houston Chronicle. “The big winners from the so-called property tax reform are property tax consultants and their clients.”

Above all, the most obvious flaw with the new law is the fact that despite being dubbed the “Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act” — it doesn’t actually lower anyone’s property taxes.

“This bill will not reduce anyone’s taxes. I have not ever said it would and I’m not going to tell anybody that it would,” said State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican and author of the house version of the tax bill, in April. He later doubled down on the statement to the Texas Tribune as the bill approached its final version.

Perhaps the bill’s biggest change comes from slowing down property tax rates by giving them a 3.5 percent cap. If counties try to raise property taxes past that amount, they’ll need the public’s approval in the ballot box.

Apologies but that’s not “reform.” That’s stopping the bleeding, not sewing up the wound. 

What the GOP did to property tax “reform” — gussying it up to be much more than it really is — isn’t unusual. Their party does PR better than Democrats, skillfully putting lipstick on a pig.

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