McAllen, cities across Texas criticize property tax legislation

The state’s top leaders in Austin want to limit how much cities can make from property taxes. Those leaders — Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen — have argued Texans are fed up with skyrocketing property taxes. This effort has been rebuked by city leaders across the state.

Recently, McAllen weighed in.

“Beware if you’re a city,” Mayor Jim Darling said at the most recent city commission meeting, repeatedly criticizing the legislation. The revenue cap being proposed by legislation in the state legislature at the moment would cap property tax revenues at 2.5 percent, though that number could change slightly.

“The legislature never talks to us,” Darling said. “We never have people show up at our tax rate hearings, we never have people show up at our budgets, so I don’t know who they’re talking to that’s complaining about it.”

Other cities have criticized the legislation, too.

“This will be absolutely injurious to our ability to provide the vital and essential services: public safety, infrastructure, code enforcement, and the other parks and libraries and the other amenities that benefit our citizens and improve the quality of life in our community,” said Waco City Councilman John Kinnaird in March.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said the legislation would be “catastrophically harmful” to police and infrastructure budgeting.

The legislation has not passed, but the state’s Republican leadership is pushing hard. They recently added a proposal: Hike up sales tax by a penny.

“It will result in billions of dollars in revenue to help drive down property taxes in the short and long term,” Abbott, Patrick and Bonnen said in a joint statement earlier this month.

It’s a tricky proposition — asking Texans to swap higher sales taxes for property tax cuts.

Ann Beeson, chief executive of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, denounced the proposal.

“Swapping a higher sales tax to limit property tax growth is the wrong approach for two main reasons,” Beeson said in a statement. “First, the sales tax takes the most from Texans who have the least. Second, sales taxes are volatile, so further linking critical public services to an erratic tax is misguided.”

Darling, meanwhile, has said he’s tried lobbying lawmakers in Austin that cities would be hurt. After all, they have business to take care of themselves.

“I don’t know how you’re going to maintain new projects,” he said.