April 17, 2007
Five and ten

If you want to know why every other year some of us turn into obsessive Lege-watchers, the answer is in stories like this.

A bill designed to give homeowners some relief from rising property appraisals was tentatively approved by the House on Monday on a vote of 87-53.

Supporters said House Bill 216 would give local appraisers more "wiggle room" when it comes to review by the state comptroller, who checks to make sure that local officials are appraising property at actual market value.

The law now says that values should not vary by more than 5 percent under or over market value. The bill by Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, would change the standard to 10 percent.

If the comptroller determines that an appraisal district has undervalued property for two consecutive years, local school districts can lose a portion of their state funding.

The bill is expected to cost nearly $2 billion between now and 2012 as the state must make up for cutting back local school taxes, according to a fiscal note.

So the point of the original law is to provide a check on local property appraisers, to ensure they aren't giving sweetheart evaluations to their cronies, or overly harsh ones to their rivals. What this bill does is allow for appraisers to be less accurate (accidentally or deliberately) without there being any consequences from the state. This will not only have an effect on school taxes, it will also put more strain on the state budget, which as you know will be needing a bigger and bigger chunk of general revenue to pay for the massive property tax cuts that were passed last year. And lest you think that you and your humble swankienda might benefit from this largesse, remember that it's high end commercial and commercial properties that will really make out like bandits. Sweet, huh?

Now, to fully answer the point I raised at the beginning of this post: How many of you had any idea this was coming? How many of you, given enough notice of this bill and the vote on it, might have contacted your State Rep and informed him or her that you think this is a boneheaded idea? Just so you know, I - Mister Super Obsessive Lege-Watching Blogger - first heard of it at all late Monday night. We watch because there's so much that needs watching, and not enough eyes to do it with.

One amusing thing about this bill: On second reading (the bill passed out of the House today), the Nay vote united such unlikely comrades as Lon Burnam and Leo Berman, and Garnet Colmen and Warren Chisum. (See here (PDF) and scroll to page 19.) How many contested bills per session do you think can say that?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 17, 2007 to That's our Lege

I wonder where this is going in the Senate. It's pitched as a property tax cut, but can Dewhurst afford to dig into the cushion he has built to ensure that the last tax cut is fully funded, at least until he moves to the Governor's Mansion? Will Steve Ogden see this the way Warren Chisum did -- as totally unaffordable? Or will the tax-cut crazies in the Senate (Williams, Janek, Duell, et al) push this through?

Posted by: David Siegel on April 17, 2007 8:14 PM