April 12, 2005
Appraisal caps dead

A bill to cap property tax appraisals, Governor Perry's self-proclaimed #1 priority this legislative session, is dead.

"I'm disappointed in the vote. I don't mind saying that," Perry said. "This is not going to go away."

Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, has been trying for weeks to gather the 100 votes needed to pass his constitutional amendment to halve the amount appraisals can grow each year. Currently, tax appraisals can grow as much as 10 percent annually.

"It's a sad day for the taxpayers of the state of Texas," Bohac said.

Perry vowed to keep up a public campaign to limit what he calls property appraisal "creep." He championed a bill set to be debated Wednesday that will reduce the cap on property tax revenue increases in cities and counties.

Proponents of appraisal caps said they would safeguard property-tax reductions that are part of the school finance plans in the House and Senate. Bohac's measure had support from the Republican leadership, including House Speaker Tom Craddick, who said today he supported appraisal caps.

"We need to take the burden of unfair taxation off the homeowners' shoulders," said Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio.

Both rural Republicans and Democrats have staunchly opposed the constitutional change, saying it would shift the tax burden to those who can least afford it and hamstring the ability of local governments to pay for vital services such as police and fire protection.

The Texas Association of Counties and the Texas Municipal League have also decried the legislation.

"I think common sense prevailed rather than a political soundbite," said Elna Christopher, spokeswoman for the county association.

On a vote of 81-65, House members stopped debate on the legislation.

"The time to kill a snake is when you've got the hoe in your hand," said Rep. Fred Hill, R-Richardson, who has ardently opposed appraisal caps.

I'm not sure why David Leibowitz is standing with Perry on this one, but I'm willing to bet he was pretty lonely on the Democratic side. Inside the Texas Capitol has a long analysis of why Bohac's bills (HJR35 and HB784 are - make that were - bad public policy. Another bill, one that limits revenue growth in a manner similar to Houston's Prop 1, is still pending.

The Chris Bell campaign was quick on the press release draw here, but the tone feels a bit off to me:

HOUSTON- The Chris Bell for Governor Exploratory Committee today called the defeat of property-tax appraisal caps in the House of Representatives a "failure of leadership" by Rick Perry.

"This was Rick Perry's top priority in reforming school finance, and its defeat represents a clear failure of leadership," said Jason Stanford, spokesman for the committee. "It wasn't too long ago that Rick Perry was on the House floor, hat in hand, begging for votes on this issue from a Republican-led legislature. If he can't lead the elected officials in his own party, then Rick Perry has to do some serious soul searching about why his influence within the party is eroding so rapidly. Rick Perry has to mark this up in the loss column."

Well, yeah, I agree it's a failure of leadership (one of many, many such examples) to see your top legislative priority go down in flames despite having a mostly compliant chamber at your service, especially since your last top priority, one for which you called a special session, fell over dead after you were on the losing end of the biggest shutout ever laid on an Aggie (TM, Patrick in the comments). My discomfort with the Bell statement is that it almost sounds like he's unhappy that this thing croaked. I'm sure that's not the case, but it still struck me that way. The way I see it, and the idea I would have emphasized in the release, the failure wasn't that Perry couldn't get his favoritest bill passed, it was that his Top Legislative Priority was such a bad idea, bad enough to get Republicans and Democrats to join hands and stomp on it. Which, let me emphasize, is a Good Thing. If there's such a thing as a catastrophic success, then surely this is a serendipitous failure.

UPDATE: In the Pink piles on, while Rep. Aaron Pena liveblogged the debate from the floor.

UPDATE: The Texas Legislature Observed jumps the gun on its announced April 15 debut date to comment on the death of HJR35.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 12, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

Perry & his Merry Men are crying all the way to the bank.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on April 12, 2005 8:30 PM

Not to worry! Harris County Commissioners Court officially supported a legislative cap http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/metropolitan/3131355 If it doesn't happen and appraised values increase above the killed cap, the Commissioners will now follow through with their equivalent tax rate decrease, right? Right? Hello? Can you hear me now? Hello? Anybody there?

Posted by: Charles Hixon on April 12, 2005 9:44 PM

Heh ... I'm with Hochberg, Vo, Strama & Alma Allen on this one. Go figure.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on April 12, 2005 11:28 PM