With the 86th legislative session rapidly drawing to a close, all eyes are on the Senate and House bills that could reform Texas property taxes — and now, by extension, school financing — if they are passed in time.
So who are the power players (and their backers) who could be key in pushing property tax reform through in the next 26 days — or stopping it from happening?
As Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, State Rep. Dustin Burrows, HD 83 (Lubbock), was tasked with shepherding the property tax bill through the House. He was also responsible for the amendment which tied the property tax reform bill to the school finance bill, and he will serve on the Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions.
Burrows’ top donors in the last election cycle:
As Chairman of the Property Tax Committee in the Texas Senate, State Senator Paul Bettencourt, SD7 (the northwest portion of the Greater Houston Area), led the Senate to pass SB2, which would lower the rate at which voters must approve a tax increase from eight percent to 3.5 percent for cities, counties, and special districts and 2.5 percent for school districts. Bettencourt will serve on the Conference Committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of SB2.
Here’s a look at Bettencourt’s top donors from the most recent election cycle:
A number of Texas mayors have come out against SB2 and HB2, claiming that property tax reforms would tie the hands of local governments and even prevent them from funding local law enforcement and emergency personnel. The mayors of Amarillo, Austin, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Conroe, Corpus Christie, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Worth, Galveston, Garland, Georgetown, Grand Prairie, Houston, Irving, Lubbock, McKinney, Pflugerville, Plano, Richardson, Round Rock, San Antonio, South Lake, and Sugarland all signed a letter addressed to Burrows expressing their lack of support for allowing voters to approve property tax increases at a rate lower than eight percent.
The Texas Municipal League (TML) and Texas Association of Counties (TAC) have been some of the most vocal opponents of property tax reform. Like the mayors mentioned above, they contend that having to ask citizens to approve tax increases will hamstring local governments and prevent emergency services. While neither TML or TAC uses a PAC to make donations directly to candidates, they instead play a strong “inside game.” TML and TAC currently employ a whopping 13 and 16 lobbyists respectively.
With less than four weeks left in this legislative session and the major pieces of legislation lumped together in a codependent heap, it will be interesting to watch how the players interact and how the drama unfolds. Transparency Texas will be keeping an eye out to report back to the most important player of all — you, the Texas citizen.
Next week we’ll take a look at the money behind the key players in the school finance reform debate. Join us here to be sure our latest updates are delivered straight to your inbox.