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Republican senator says homeowners will see 'real' property tax cut, while Texas' largest corporate tax break program is 'toast'

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, of Houston, says even more property tax reform could be on the way after the state’s largest corporate tax break program expires.
Credit: WFAA

DALLAS — Texans will have an opportunity next year to allow homeowners to lower their property tax bill. If passed in May, the constitutional amendment would raise the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000.

Even though some fear the potential reduction might get swallowed up by rising property values, the Republican senator behind the measure says by any definition, it’s a true property tax cut because the exemption is increasing.

“And that’s a permanent $176 per year cut for as long as you own the home.  And that means well over $5,000 for a lifetime because that follows you anywhere you go effectively,” Sen. Paul Bettencourt said on Inside Texas Politics.

While the Republican from Houston calls the cut a powerful tool, he says even more property tax reform could be on the way after the state’s largest corporate tax break program expires, which the Texas Comptroller’s office says will happen at the end of next year. Known as Chapter 313, it allows school districts to temporarily limit a property’s appraised value to encourage business development. But the property owner has to create a certain number of permanent, full-time jobs. 

Passed in 2001, it’s upset many homeowners who they see their property values and taxes rise, while some businesses receive huge tax breaks.  And Sen. Bettencourt says the program has seen some serious abuses over the years, even telling Inside Texas Politics some companies take advantage of it and create only one job. He says there is no way the existing 313 program will be renewed, even going so far as to call it “toast.”

“Doing it wrong doesn’t make anybody happy except the people that get money, they get a windfall and produce one job and that’s not what the program’s about,” the Republican said. “If we’re not going to have responsible use of the economic development funds, we’re not going to have a program.”

And now that lawmakers have returned home after the third special session ended, Bettencourt indicated there’s little appetite for a fourth special session and that lawmakers likely will not reconvene until the next regular session in 2023.

“I think the odds are looking pretty low at this point in time. And after participating in a 10-month legislative cycle, I’m ready to live long and prosper myself as a regular person back with regular folks back in the district,” Bettencourt said while holding up the Vulcan salutation.

Chapter 313 (Comptroller’s office): Chapter 313: Trading Tax Limitations for Development (texas.gov) 

SB 1 (homestead exemption increase):  Texas Legislature Online - 87(3) History for SB 1