(The Center Square) – There are 14 constitutional amendments on the Nov. 7 ballot in Texas. Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 23.
Voters will decide on permanently amending the Texas Constitution to reduce property taxes, further subsidize childcare and higher education institutions with low free speech rankings, expand water quality, create a Texas Energy Fund to stabilize the grid, increase public school teacher retirement benefits, make permanent tax increases in El Paso County, increase the mandatory retirement ages of judges, create a $1 billion parks and wildlife fund, among other issues.
The Texas legislature passed resolutions to add the amendments to the ballot. Voters must approve each proposition by a simple majority for the constitution to be amended. Since the Texas Constitution was adoption in 1876, it has been amended 517 times. Texas is tied with California for having the most amended constitution in the United States, according to an analysis by Ballotpedia.
The proposition language on the ballot appears to be confusing, which is why multiple resources exist to help educate voters. They include a Texas Legislative Council analysis, one by Ballotpedia, the League of Women Voters of Texas, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, among others.
The constitutional amendments on the ballot, in English and Spanish, include:
Proposition 1: Would protect “the right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management.”
If passed, anyone, including billion-dollar corporations, would “have the right to engage in generally accepted farm, ranch, timber production, horticulture, or wildlife management practices on real property they own or lease.” Texas already has a right to farm statute.
Proposition 2: Would authorize “a local option exemption from ad valorem taxation by a county or municipality of all or part of the appraised value of real property used to operate a child-care facility.”
The amendment would permanently allow some cities and counties to exempt child-care facilities from paying some property taxes if they participate in the Texas Rising Star Program and have at least 20% of enrolled children already receiving federal and state subsidies through Texas Workforce Commission programs.
Proposition 3: Would prohibit “the imposition of an individual wealth or net worth tax, including a tax on the difference between the assets and liabilities of an individual or family.”
If approved, a future legislature would be prohibited from implementing a wealth tax, including taxing on individuals or households based on their net worth or taxing the difference between assets and liabilities.
Proposition 4: Would establish “a temporary limit on the maximum appraised value of real property other than a residence homestead for ad valorem purposes; to increase the amount of the exemption from ad valorem taxation by a school district applicable to residence homesteads from $40,000 to $100,000; to adjust the amount of the limitation on school district ad valorem imposed on the residence homesteads of the elderly or disabled to reflect increase in certain exemption amounts; to except certain appropriations to pay for ad valorem tax relief from the constitutional limitation on the rate of growth of appropriations; and to authorize the legislature to provide for a four-year term of office for a member of the board of directors of certain appraisal districts.”
The amendment comes from an historic bipartisan $13 billion property tax relief bill Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law. It allocates over $7 billion in state funds to reduce school district maintenance and operation property taxes. It prohibits localities from reducing or eliminating their additional Local Option Homestead Exemption and increases the statewide homestead exemption to $100,000.
It would create a three-year pilot program to implement a 20% appraisal cap on non-residential property valued below $5 million. It also would create three new elected positions for appraisal review boards in counties that have a population of over 75,000.
Proposition 5: Relates to the Texas University Fund, “which provides funding to certain institutions of higher education to achieve national prominence as major research universities and drive the state economy.”
If approved, the National Research University Fund would be renamed the Texas University Fund. The fund would be permanently financed using Rainy Day Fund money of up to $100 million in interest income, dividends, and investment earnings. Texas State University, Texas Tech University, the University of Houston and the University of North Texas would be able to access the fund. These institutions have failing rankings (49, 55, 42, and 32, respectively) for how much free speech is allowed on their campuses, according to a recent ranking.
Proposition 6: Would create a $1 billion “Texas water fund to assist in financing water projects in this state” that would be administered by the Texas Water Development Board.
Proposition 7: Would create a $5 billion “Texas energy fund to support the construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of electric generating facilities.” The facilities would be able to qualify for loans or grants administered by the Public Utility Commission financed through the fund.
Proposition 8: Would create a $1.5 billion “broadband infrastructure fund to expand high-speed broadband access and assist in the financing of connectivity projects.”
Proposition 9: Would authorize “the 88th Legislature to provide a cost-of-living adjustment to certain annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.” If approved, $3.35 billion the legislature allocated would increase retired teachers’ pensions ranging from 2% to 6%.
Proposition 10: Would authorize the legislature “to exempt from ad valorem taxation equipment or inventory held by a manufacturer of medical or biomedical products to protect the Texas healthcare network and strengthen our medical supply chain.” A legislative fiscal note projects $28.8 million in state revenue losses and $43.1 million in school district revenue losses in fiscal 2025.
Proposition 11: Would authorize the legislature “to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.”
If approved, property tax increases would be made permanent to fund bonds to develop and maintain county parks and recreation facilities.
Proposition 12: Would allow for “the abolition of the office of county treasurer in Galveston County.” Galveston County voters would need to pass the amendment for it to go into effect.
Proposition 13: Would increase the mandatory age of retirement for state justices and judges.
Currently, they must be 70 in order to retire, and at 75, are constitutionally mandated to retire. If the amendment passes, the age limits would be raised to 75 and 79, respectively.
Proposition 14: Would create a $1 billion “Centennial Parks Conservation Fund to be used for the creation and improvement of state parks.”