Ryan Chandler and Monica Madden
Editor’s Note: The video above shows KXAN News Today’s top headlines for June 20, 2023
AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed the most expensive property tax relief package yet as the standoff between top leaders in the state continues.
Senate Bill 26 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt would spend more than $18 billion of the state’s budget surplus on three different mechanisms aimed at lowering property tax bills, adding another $400 million to the previous plans.
Surrounded by Republican and Democratic senators, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced the vote in a press conference and again called on the House to come back to Austin to come to an agreement on their proposal, with days left in the first special session.
“The taxpayers are waiting for their tax cut and the clock is ticking,” Patrick said.
The new proposal preserves the Senate’s top priority of raising the homestead exemption to $100,000, the most direct benefit to homeowners and the major sticking point between the upper chamber and Gov. Greg Abbott. It also dedicates $400 million more towards buying down school district property tax rates, the strategy Abbott prefers exclusively.
Senators’ latest offer comes after weeks of a stalemate between the upper chamber and the governor, who supports the House plan of rate compression passed on the first full day of the special legislative session. Even during the regular session, top Republicans wrestled for months over how to cut property taxes with Texas’ historic budget surplus of $33 billion.
Renae Eze, spokesperson for Abbott, did not signal openness to the new Senate proposal on Tuesday — again emphasizing that the governor wants to see a reduction in taxes through rate compression, in which the state gives more money to school districts so they in turn can lower their tax rates. Abbott has said he believes this is the best pathway toward fulfilling his goal of ultimately eliminating property taxes.
“The Governor has been clear that his goal is to put Texans on a pathway to eliminate their school M&O property taxes, and the best way to do that is to devote all property tax relief to cutting property tax rates. The Governor has also been clear that the only way a property tax bill gets to his desk is for the Texas House and Texas Senate to agree to a bill and get it to the Governor’s desk, and he encourages the two chambers to work towards a solution,” Eze said in a statement.
House Speaker Dade Phelan did not immediately comment on the Senate’s new plan. Earlier on Tuesday, Phelan named a new committee to study “sustainable property tax relief.” It isn’t clear yet how the Senate’s bill would pass, considering the House already adjourned sine die, or indefinitely, for the remainder of this first special session.
This is an ongoing report, check back for updates. Capitol Correspondent Ryan Chandler will have a full report on KXAN at 5 p.m.