By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged to use half of the state’s projected $27 billion surplus to reduce property taxes.
Gov. Abbott made the pledge after conservatives called for the historic surplus to be used to provide property tax relief.
“Texas is sitting on a record budget surplus of $27 billion…,” Gov. Abbott tweeted. “Because this is your money, I want to return at least HALF of that money to you with the largest property tax cut ever in the history of Texas.”
“If this happens, it’d make for the largest property tax cut in Texas history,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation reports. “The news is sure to be welcomed by struggling taxpayers. Homeowners and businesses today are battling sky-high inflation, soaring property values and greedy governments, with little sign of relief outside of the governor’s announcement.”
Jonathan Stickland, founder of the Defend Texas Liberty PAC, said of Gov. Abbott’s pledge, “It’s encouraging to see our governor not only identify this problem, but be responsive to the voters and come out with this position so swiftly following our poll. Listening to grassroots voters and campaigning on real and meaningful property tax relief is exactly the right strategy for Greg Abbott to unite the Republican Party and ensure Texas stays red this November.”
According to a new poll conducted by the PAC, 66% of newly registered voters favor using the majority of the surplus to cut property taxes. Among them, 78% were Republicans, 65% independents and 44% Democrats.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has called on the governor and state legislature to return the entire surplus to taxpayers.
TPPF argues it’s “right to return to taxpayers as much of Texas’ $27 billion surplus as possible. After all, these excess revenues came from the pockets of hardworking Texans, many of whom are treading water now, and the alternative is to use these funds to grow government, something that would only exacerbate the problems of today.”
The surplus has contributed an historic amount to the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which is expected to reach $13.6 billion by the end of fiscal year 2023 according to the state comptroller’s office.
Former Democratic Congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke argues one way to reduce property taxes is to increase taxes on “wealthy corporations.” He also claims on his campaign website, “In the seven years that Abbott has been governor, property taxes have skyrocketed $20 billion. Why? It’s simple: First, Abbott isn’t looking out for Texas families – he’s looking out for his wealthy corporate donors.
“Year after year, he allows corporations to manipulate the appraisal process and shift billions upon billions of dollars of their tax burden onto the rest of us,” Mr. O’Rourke wrote. “ As governor, I will ensure wealthy corporations pay what they truly owe, dramatically reducing property taxes for families and small businesses.”
Homeowners in Texas currently pay the sixth-highest property taxes in the U.S., with many seeing double-digit increases in their bills in one year.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility’s president, Tim Hardin, told The Center Square that property taxes have gone up nearly 200% in the last 20 years “with no sign of stopping.” The “historic property tax reform” touted during the 2019 legislative session, “has resulted in no tax relief for anyone,” he said.
“Our tax problems can be solved the same way that we have to solve our personal budgets: cut spending. Not slow the rate of growth of spending,” he said, but “actually cut spending and reduce the size of government.
“We are literally drowning in surplus dollars and the legislature is already looking for ways to use that to grow government. Texans must demand our money back in the form of property tax relief and a significant reduction in the size of our government.”