Jun 9, 2023 - Politics

Dan Patrick defies Abbott on property taxes

A photo of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in front of American flags.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gets to set the Texas Senate's agenda. Photo: Lynda M. Gonzalez/Getty Images

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said this week that the Texas Senate won't pass the property tax-relief bill supported by Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan, insisting that the House proposal doesn't cut taxes enough for most homeowners.

Why it matters: After eight years in their respective offices, this is the first time the governor and lieutenant governor, both Republicans, have publicly disagreed on an issue, Patrick said at a press conference.

The big picture: Abbott and Patrick both campaigned on the promise of using some of the state's $32.7 billion surplus to lower property taxes, but they differ on how to dole out $12.3 billion in new money set aside for property tax cuts in the upcoming two-year state budget.

State of play: Abbott wants to extend the property tax cut to all property owners in Texas, including businesses, and doesn't want to raise the state's homestead exemption — the portion of a home's value that owners don't pay taxes on.

  • Under Patrick's guidance, the Senate unanimously passed a plan that would spread 70% of the money among all property owners, then put the rest of it toward raising the homestead exemption on school taxes from $40,000 to $100,000.

Yes, but: The House passed bills addressing the two priorities Abbott set when he called the special session in late May, hours after the regular session ended — property tax relief and border security — then immediately adjourned.

  • If the Senate doesn't pass those bills exactly as written, and Phelan doesn't call members back to the Capitol, those bills won't reach the governor's desk by the end of the special session — which can last a maximum of 30 days.

Reality check: The Senate plan would lower taxes for the roughly 6 million Texans who own their primary residence by an average of about $1,200, Patrick said. The proposal supported by Abbott and Phelan would lower the average homeowner's property tax bill by about $750 but would benefit higher-income property owners more.

  • Neither plan would directly affect renters.

Context: The state's property taxes are the sixth highest in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank.

  • Property taxes provide most of the money local governments use to pay for schools, roads, police, fire protection and other services.
  • Texas has no state income tax.

The intrigue: Abbott tweeted that he wants to put Texas on a path toward eliminating property taxes.

  • Patrick called that notion "fantasy."

What they're saying: Patrick said that by adjourning, the House "didn’t give the bird to the Texas Senate, they gave the bird to 5.7 million homeowners."

The other side: "I will call special session after special session after special session until a solution is reached," Abbott said this week.

  • "The House has passed the largest property tax cut in state history three times this year. In the special session, the House came to work, passed its bills with bipartisan support, and adjourned — the Senate is keeping Texans waiting," Phelan's office said in a statement.

What we're watching: Patrick has challenged Abbott to a "Lincoln-Douglas-style debate" to hash out their differences on the issue.

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