Tuesday, in Austin, the Texas Senate Finance Committee held a 10-hour hearing on Senate Bill 2. SB 2 is authored by Houston Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt. Through SB 2 Bettencourt is seeking to reduce the amount of annual property tax rate increases by government entities.

Currently, a property tax rollback election can be triggered through petition signatures if the increase from year-to-year is at 8 percent or higher. Under the proposed SB 2 the threshold for a rollback election would drop from 8 percent to 4 percent and petition signatures would no longer be needed, the rollback election would be automatic.

A bevy of citizens and elected officials from across the state testified on Tuesday including Lubbock County Commissioners Bill McCay (R) and Patty Jones (R). A large number of elected officials who testified spoke out against SB 2. Testimony was limited to two minutes for each person speaking in front of the Senate Finance Committee.

Commissioner McCay (pictured center in above photo) opened his remarks by saying, "I am for property tax relief, absolutely, anything we can do to lower taxes. I am opposed to Senate Bill 2 because it's not really tax reform or tax relief."

Both McCay and Commissioner Jones cited examples working with the Lubbock County budget in which "unfunded mandates" from the state needed to be funded at the county level with increased annual revenues.

"Lubbock County must find a way to fund these mandates," Jones said. "Just one example, is there is no way to accurately predict how many appointed attorneys will be needed during an upcoming budget cycle in criminal, civil, and CPS cases. Yes, we have data and history, but it is still a variable that can dramatically increase beyond budget estimates and we need the flexibility to address those types budget issues. We have basically three areas of funding: property taxes, a one-half cent sales tax, which was voted on our votes in 1988, and stagnant fees and fines."

On Wednesday, Senator Bettencourt's office announced SB 2 had passed a Senate Finance Committee vote 9-5.

“Thank you to Texas taxpayers that drove in on their own nickel to testify on the importance of SB 2,” Senator Bettencourt said. “I have never been prouder of regular Texans coming to the Capitol to speak up for all those who couldn’t come tonight. Some officials are brave enough to speak out for SB 2, but regular citizens are speaking for property tax reform and relief!

“SB 2’s rollback rate reduction and automatic election empowers voters and will help slow the growth of future property tax bill increases. I want to thank Chair Jane Nelson and the other members of the Senate Finance Committee who voted at the stroke of midnight for this major step forward for Texas taxpayers. Voters will have a say in tax rate elections, and that’s the ultimate in local control,” he added.

SB 2 now moves to a vote by the full Texas Senate.


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