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Senate passes property tax bill it previously approved, in defiance of Abbott

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(The Center Squar) – The Texas Senate on Wednesday passed Senate Bill 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 1, two property tax relief measures it previously passed in the regular session and eight days ago in the first special legislative session.

The measures conflict with the call for property tax reform specified by Gov. Greg Abbott when he scheduled a second special legislative session Tuesday.

Both bills were filed by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who said, “I have been fighting for property tax relief since before I held elected office. I have been clear that I will not leave Austin without property tax relief targeted at homeowners through an increased homestead exemption to provide them as much relief as possible. Homeowners need property tax relief right now.

Bettencourt said his bill would provide Texas with the largest property tax cut in the state’s history “by combining the power of the homestead exemption and compression for homeowners.”

Businesses also would see “meaningful relief,” he added.

SJR 1 would, among other things, provide the state’s teachers with supplemental pay for the next two years.

“The Texas Senate will continue to fight for homeowners, teachers, and businesses,” Bettencourt said. “We look forward to working with the House to pass property tax relief and supplemental payments for teachers in the coming weeks.”

Abbott’s call for the special session includes the legislature passing bills that eliminate the larger of two property taxes homeowners pay in Texas “by passing legislation to put Texas on a pathway to eliminate school district maintenance and operations property taxes.” It calls the legislature to provide “lasting property tax rate cuts” by passing legislation “to cut property tax rates solely by reducing the school district maximum compressed tax rate in order to provide lasting property-tax relief for Texas taxpayers.”

After Abbott called the special session, Lt. Gov. Patrick issued a statement saying the Senate wasn’t budging on its position to include a homestead exemption as part of tax relief, setting the second special session up for failure.

SB 1 would increase the homestead exemption to $100,000, increase property tax compression to decrease school property maintenance and operation tax rates, decrease the rollback rate for school districts from 2.5% to 1.75%, provide relief for small businesses paying franchise taxes, among other measures for businesses. The bill is estimated to provide a 43% decrease in homeowner school property taxes on average, Bettencourt says.

SJR 1, a constitutional amendment, would be put on the ballot in the fall for voters to approve or reject the expanded homestead exemption. It also includes a supplemental payment for full-time public-school teachers of $2,000 and an additional $4,000 for teachers in rural areas.

The measures are likely dead-on-arrival in the House, which already rejected the Senate’s property tax measures in the first special legislative session and passed its own bill, which the Senate didn’t consider.

The second special session lasts for 30 days. Abbott has said he will not call any more special legislative sessions to address any issues until the legislature passes roughly $18 billion in property tax reform.

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