Today is the first day of early voting in Texas, which lasts until October 30th. Locations and hours vary by county, so be sure to contact your local elections division to find out where and when you can vote early in your community.
This year, along with local elections, Texans will have the opportunity to vote on seven proposed amendments to the Constitution. These initiatives, listed as propositions on the ballot, were passed through the State Legislature this past session, but they require voter approval in order to change the language of the Constitution.
Proposition ballot language is often full of confusing legislative jargon, but at Burnt Orange Report, we’re committed to providing comprehensive analysis of these propositions for our readers – starting with Proposition 1.
This past session, Republican lawmakers went to work trying to make good on campaign promises to lower taxes and cut government spending. This constitutional amendment is the “least-worst way to under-invest” in things like healthcare, infrastructure, and education, according to CPPP’s Dick Lavine.
The constitutional amendment would increase the homestead exemption by $10,000, raising the general homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000, and ensuring that those over 65 – who benefit from increased homestead exemptions – would also see a difference.
Homestead exemptions matter because they reduce the taxable value of Texan’s homes, which then decreases the amount homeowners pay in property taxes. The League of Women Voters Texas’ guide states that of all of the proposed mechanisms for tax relief, this one will have the greatest impact for low income families.For houses with lower property values, $25,000 will mean a much larger percent decrease.
It is estimated that Texas families would save about $120 per household. However, as KUT pointed out in their coverage of the amendment, rising property values across the state may negate this savings entirely for many Texans in the coming year.
While better than other options, like a proposed cut to the sales tax that didn’t succeed this past session, this particular tax directly impacts the local funding for school districts, and relies on an increase in the state share of education funding without the creation of a permanent mechanism to fill a $1.2 billion gap. As Lavine points out, Texas hasn’t been very good at meeting those funding requirements in recent years, and has so far failed to bring schools back up to their 2011 levels of funding.
The folks at Progress Texas reminded us in their voter guide that a homestead exemption has been offered by Democrats as a fair way to cut taxes for over a decade, and it received the support of Democrats on the House floor when the resolution came up for a vote.
While tax cuts may seem irresponsible when funding is so desperately needed for things like roads and neighborhood schools, the Republican-controlled legislature was committed to following through on their campaign promises to reduce taxes for Texans. That this tax will make the largest impact for low income Texans is nothing to discount, given the circumstances and political climate.
Progress Texas calls this one a “toss up,” and I would have to agree. Had the legislature chosen to take advantage of the billions of dollars left on the table to put more funding into infrastructure, public education, and meeting the needs of Texans, these tax cuts may have been easier to support. Instead, Republicans kept a tight grip on investing in the next biennium, and paired it with tax cuts to boot, reducing the revenue that will be available for such spending in the future.