Lowering Texans’ Property Taxes

February 8, 2009

State Representative Phil King

On January 14, 2009, The Weatherford Democrat published the results of an important online poll they conducted. One of the questions given was “what do you feel is the most pressing issue for the Texas Legislature?” To that question, 28 percent responded property taxes were number one on their list of priorities and concerns.

We all hear stories almost every day of someone losing their home to foreclosure. Part of that is caused by high property taxes which now account for 17 percent of the average residential mortgage payment in Texas! Despite the fact you may have paid off your home loan, you never truly “own” your house because you continue to pay property taxes. In reality, you just rent your property from the government. Combine this with the all too common appraisal creep and it’s no wonder why so many Texans — like me — consider changes in the property tax system an urgent priority for Texas. That is why I have filed HJR 38.

This constitutional amendment, if passed, would dedicate 25 percent of all future state budget surpluses to the reduction of school property taxes. Had this been the law, your local school property taxes would have dropped this year from $1.04 per $100 valuation to approximately 85 cents per $100 valuation without lowering revenue to any school. And most years, Texas has a budget surplus so additional buy-downs would come automatically in future years.

Changing tax law is very difficult and this will be a tough bill to pass. It requires a two-thirds affirmative vote of both the Texas Senate and the House and then the legislation must be approved by voters in a state-wide referendum. Only then would the new law go into effect.

The beauty of this approach is the tax relief for Texans with no negative effects on revenue for our public schools. I recognize the importance for the legislature to be incredibly mindful of our responsibility to adequately fund public schools and relieve much of the financial burden they are currently facing. I am confident that without major reform, the public school funding system faces a very difficult future and the real potential for complete collapse.

HJR 38 will help a lot, but its only part of the solution. The true remedy is to replace Texas’ property tax system with a consumption-based tax, such as the sales tax, and this will remain one of my top legislative priorities.

It is an honor to serve you in the Texas Legislature.