Howls came quickly after Gov. Greg Abbott Tuesday ((1/16/18)) proposed lowering the lid to 2.5 percent on how much local governments could raise property taxes in a year without triggering a voter referendum.
Abbott's proposal would two-thirds of those voting to approve before the 2.5 percent lid could be exceeded,
In the regular and special legislative sessions last year, Republicans Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had backed unsuccessful efforts for a lid of 4 percent.
The current law sets the increase at 8 percent before voters can petition for a rollback election.
Abbott's latest proposal, and the one last year, made a rollback election automatic if the lid is exceeded.
Local governments, which already think the state government is the principal contributor to rising property taxes, hate the idea.
They consider it micromanagement at its worst, pretending to deal with a problem actually caused by the state government's ducking of its responsibilities on financing public schools.
Bennett Sandlin, the executive director of the Texas Municipal League, which represents cities, immediately charged that the proposal has more to do with posturing to voters in the 2018 elections than good public policy.
“Gov. Abbott’s latest, and most extreme, property tax proposal is typical of election year promises made by politicians,” Sandlin charged, in harsher than usual language.
“Texas has rejected such proposals for decades because they would endanger public safety, job creation and road projects," Sandlin said. "Doubling down on a bad idea will not produce meaningful property tax relief for Texans.”
The governor is trying to foist off on local governments the blame for a problem that's actually caused in the first place by the state, critics said – including Ann Beeson, the executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which looks out for the poor and downtrodden.
“If Gov. Abbott is really concerned about property taxes, then he should join the business leaders and other Texans calling for more state investment in public schools,” Beeson said.
The state's so-called "Robin Hood" school funding system was passed in the early 1990s by the Legislature, as a stopgap to satisfy court orders to equalize funding between school districts.
It requires that property-rich school districts help subsidize property-poor districts. But in practice, property taxpayers in the Austin Independent School District, for instance, will have more than half a billion dollars added to their tax bills to be sent to the state in so-called "recapture" payments.
That is despite the fact that well over half of the district's students are classified as in poverty. But even then, the state siphons off a good bit of those funds for other purposes, unrelated to public education.
Abbott has conceded that the state needs to revise its school finance system. That is currently being studied by the Texas Commission on Public School Finance the Legislature created last summer.
Abbott's $43 million war chest hasn't unduly discouraged Democrats looking to unseat him.
Andrew White, son of the late former Gov. Mark White, talks about as directly as his father, renowned for unseating Republican Gov. Bill Clements in 1982.
Appearing before the Texas AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education in Austin Saturday, ((1/20/18)) White predicted Texas will be in danger if Abbott is re-elected.
A major reason, he said, is that Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has been the moderating force in Texas government, and is not seeking re-election.
“This election is one of the most important in our lifetimes,” White told the 350 labor delegates at their endorsement meeting.
White told the Austin American-Statesman that with Straus gone, and a House speaker more "extreme" like Lt. Gov. Patrick and Abbott, Texas government will be in deep trouble.
Straus was credited in 2017 for blocking Patrick's pet "bathroom bill," to dictate which bathrooms transgender people could use. But Straus won't be around for the 2019 legislative session.
“Over and over, Speaker Straus has been the voice of reason in the Republican Party, so without that voice, I’m very nervous,” White said.
He compared state government without Straus to a “runaway truck without anyone able to hit the brakes.”
Without the moderating force that Straus provided, “I see vouchers happening. I see bathroom bills happening. I see the loss of local control. I see continued failure in education and health care."
White and Lupe Valdez, who resigned as sheriff of Dallas County to seek the gubernatorial nomination, both appeared before the labor convention. No other gubernatorial candidates, Democrat or Republican, were invited.
Both said the negative reaction to Republican President Donald Trump is having a huge impact on interest in the election by prospective Democratic voters.
On Sunday the labor group endorsed Valdez for governor.