Sky-high property taxes are perpetuating an affordability crisis, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pointed out. Abbott told the Rotary Club of San Antonio, “One thing that is driving up the cost of housing and the cost of living is skyrocketing property taxes—skyrocketing property taxes that are beginning to force people out of homes they’ve lived in for virtually their entire lives.”
And of course, he’s right. Texans everywhere are struggling to hold onto their homes because of soaring tax bills. That’s especially true in places like Travis County, where local officials are hitting homeowners hard.
Looking ahead, things don’t look much better either. In spite of new state-mandated reforms, local governments, like Travis County and the city of Austin, have maxed out property tax increases this year while also posturing as though voters will need to approve big hikes in the future too.
Such explosive tax growth, perpetuated in large part by liberal local officials, is untenable. It’s forced countless kitchen table conversations and led to a lot of heartache among young families and senior citizens alike.
Because Texas’ property tax problem is so bad, we need to find a solution equal in size and spirit. We must be bold.
Enter the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s plan to eliminate the school maintenance and operations (M&O) property tax. If faithfully implemented, this plan will slow government spending, saw property tax bills in half, and scrap Robin Hood, an ill-conceived scheme that redistributes money among school districts.
Here’s how it works:
To start, the plan requires the Texas Legislature to tap the brakes on state and local government spending. By putting reasonable limits on year-over-year spending growth, the state can generate surpluses which can then be directed at the M&O portion of your tax bill. Almost immediately, this progressive replacement strategy will ease the burden by lowering what is paid for school property taxes. Over a 12-year period, economists estimate that the M&O tax can be eliminated entirely, thus providing real tax relief while also increasing the state’s share of public education finding.
There’s a lot to like about this plan. It promises less government, lower taxes, and a long overdue end to the Robin Hood program. And it doesn’t trade smaller taxes in one area for bigger taxes elsewhere. Rather, it restrains the growth of government and pledges surplus money toward the elimination of an onerous tax.
The plan is ambitious in its scope. No doubt that will cause some to shrink back and say it can’t be done. But the naysayers are wrong. Texas’ property tax system needs exactly this kind of remodeling done. The stakes are too high.
Too many Texans have either been forced out or are on the verge of losing their homes. We cannot let the status quo continue. When the time comes, Texans need their state lawmakers to go big or go home—before skyrocketing property taxes make that impossible.