By Senator Borris Miles
Republican-led Property Tax Relief or Deceit?
Last week, the Texas Senate passed the controversial property tax reform bill, Senate Bill 2. This bill is just an attack on local governments and their ability to provide basic services to their communities, without providing any meaningful tax relief.
We have watched our City of Houston leaders grapple with balancing a budget with the hindrance of the local revenue cap for years. This cap makes it a challenge to provide essential city services like picking up trash and filling potholes. SB 2 will add another restriction and will only further exacerbate Houston’s current situation.
Texas is a two-tax state that primarily uses property taxes and sales taxes to fund government services. Since the start of the session, the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the Texas House have all advocated in support of property tax relief. SB 2 would lower the rollback rate from 8 percent to 2.5 percent for schools and 3.5 percent for other local governments. But, Republican leaders want to fund the property tax cut by increasing the state’s sales tax from 6.25 percent to 7.25 percent, which would be the highest in the country.
I strongly oppose raising the sales tax because it is a direct attack on our communities. Low income and minority communities, especially those that live paycheck to paycheck, will be hit the hardest by this tax increase. That is unacceptable! Further, property taxes are tied directly to public school finances. You cannot start talking about property tax reform until you fully fund public education. In 2011, Texas Republican leaders cut public education to the tune of $5 billion. That massive budget cut reverberated in schools in the Black community and was felt at neighborhoods surrounding Yates, Worthing, Kashmere and Wheatley High Schools. Restoring the 2011 budget cuts come first before we even begin discussing property tax reform.
Local government services are the backbone of a community. They pave the streets, keep the traffic lights on, toilets flushing, protect our homes and so much more. Republicans need to let local jurisdictions decide what is best for their community. If the community has a problem with their local leaders, they can voice their pleasure or displeasure at the ballot box. State leaders need to heed that lesson, as many found out in the November 2018 Election. Keep local governments local and stop this attack on our community.