May 17, 2019 Austin, Texas Circus of Elected officials
by Brandon Waltens
A proposal to raise the state’s sales tax will not be voted on in the Texas House, despite state leaders promising to deliver on the measure as recently as Friday.
Though the legislation by State Rep. Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood) was scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, Huberty took to the front microphone to lament the collapse in support for the proposal and ultimately moved to postpone debate on the measure until well after the session ends.
Other lawmakers like State Reps. Ken King (R–Canadian) and Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) joined Huberty in criticizing the Senate for rejecting the proposal—specifically State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), who fought against the passage of the plan in the Texas Senate and successfully convinced lawmakers there to dedicate existing revenue to property tax relief instead.
The plan is one that was heavily pushed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen in recent weeks, as the “Big Three” pushed the sales tax increase as a method of “property tax relief” in a joint press conference just days before the bill’s demise.
But shortly after their Friday afternoon press conference, the concept received a devastating wound. The Legislative Budget Board released projections on the bill’s implementation suggesting as many as 75 percent of Texans could see their overall tax burden increased with the passage of the so-called “swap,” even with every dollar raised going to decrease property tax burdens.
After those numbers were released, the Texas Senate distanced itself from the idea. When the House’s school finance spending bill was brought to the Senate floor on Monday, a contingency component which tied property tax relief to the passage of the sales tax increase was removed and replaced revenues from the sales tax increase with alternate funding mechanisms, including revenue dedication from the oil and gas severance tax and sales taxes from internet purchases.
At the time, Bettencourt told Texas Scorecard he believed it would be up to the House as to whether or not the proposal continued to move forward.
On Monday night, a poll commissioned by State Reps. Kyle Biedermann (R–Fredericksburg) and Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) confirmed that a majority of Texans in both parties were opposed to a sales tax increase, preferring property tax relief to come from existing funds—an available option for the legislature’s nearly $10 billion surplus to work with.
With Democrats in nearly unified opposition toward the proposal, and with Republican members beginning to drop off and indicate growing opposition, the House Republican Caucus met on Tuesday morning ahead of the vote on the package of legislation—House Joint Resolution 3 and House Bill 4621—to count the votes.
According to reports from the Capitol, many members who had softly committed their support for the tax to Gov. Abbott and House leadership were now in opposition, following the Senate’s action Monday and the consideration of the bill’s unpopularity as indicated in the new polling.
With the tax increase legislation officially dead in the Texas House and property tax reform and relief legislation on track to be finally approved by both chambers—should the coming conference committee work to keep it intact—it appears taxpayers have emerged victorious in fighting back against higher taxes.
However, in order for them to see serious tax relief they will need to continue advocating for lawmakers to cut spending and prioritize taxpayers instead.