Battle over property tax relief pits state leaders against cities, counties

- State Senator Paul Bettencourt believes local governments across Texas are pulling far too many dollars out of hard pressed family wallets, and he's pushing a mandatory limit on how much your property tax rate can grow.

"We need property tax relief and we need it now," said Bettencourt.

Senate Bill 2 would drop the maximum hike in any given year from 8 percent to 4 percent.

The measure has Lt. Governor Dan Patrick's full support.

"Senate Bill 2 is a very sound bill that says no government can grow more in a year, which is about population times inflation, which is what we do at the state level quite frankly, unless the people have a vote," said Patrick.

SB 2 has also drawn the backing of Montgomery County, the 11th largest county in the state.

"You hear a lot of talk about what services we are going to cut. What are we going to do to make a difference? We are not going to have to cut anything. What we are going to have to do is be much more responsible with the dollars that we have," said Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack.

But Spring Valley Mayor Tom Ramsey says every municipality in Harris County is dead set against SB 2 because the rate cap slashes their flexibility to fund essential services like police, fire and flood control in an era of explosive population growth.

He believes Bettencourt's bill, if adopted, will backfire.

"I'll assure you in most cities, we will adopt the 4 percent every year, when in some years it might have been 2 percent it might have been one percent," said Ramsey, adding "Leave local decisions to local officials."

Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack told Fox 26 News -"This is another unfunded mandate on local government from a state soon to be swimming in $10 billion of cash reserves."

Bettencourt says Harris County has no room to complain about money because rising property values have driven the county's revenue up 36 percent over the past three years, a raise, he contends, few local households can match.

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