Can the state cut property taxes? Yes, sort of

Posted by John Kanelis on

Texas statewide political candidates can promise all they want that they'll cut property taxes.

It's not that easy to explain, as the Texas Tribune's Ross Ramsey notes in the essay attached here.

Ramsey's story, which is posted on the website, explains how the state can regulate local property taxes, even though Texas does not levy a statewide property tax.

Ramsey notes in his analysis: "The formula is simple: The value of a property multiplied by the tax rate equals the amount of tax owed. Local officials look at the total value of property and set a rate that yields the revenue they need. State efforts to limit the growth of property tax revenues have met with limited success; local officials dislike mandates from Austin as much as they hate decrees from Washington.

"The state, however, can have some say in what kinds of property can be exempted from the tax base. Farms get a break. So do homeowners over 65. And state law allows local governments to do what Patrick is promising, by freezing residential property tax bills at the amounts paid by homeowners as of their 65th birthdays."

Republican lieutenant governor nominee state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston is making bold claims of being willing and able to reduce Texans' property taxes. As the presiding officer of the Texas Senate, the lieutenant governor does have some say in how that would be done. Ramsey notes that even if Patrick loses the election this fall to Democratic nominee state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a property tax reduction still looks possible, given that liberals and conservatives alike dislike property taxes with equal fervor.

So, if you hear statewide candidates for, say, governor or lieutenant governor pledge to cut property taxes, be sure to ask them -- if you're able -- to explain how they'll make it happen.

Their first task will be to tell you in a manner that you -- and they -- can understand.

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