Dishonesty won’t fix property taxes

Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

I have always supported efforts to reduce the burden of property taxes on hard-working Texans throughout our state and have stated numerous times that for the Texas economy to remain vibrant and healthy, we must address the burden that our property tax system places on both homeowners and businesses in our state. It’s an important issue and one I take very seriously in my role as the state’s comptroller.

I’ve worked hard to ensure taxpayers and legislators alike can rely on my office for honest assessments of Texas’ economy and clear, accurate revenue numbers.  That’s why, for the first time in 30 years, my agency has updated a “revenue estimate” — the official forecast of the state’s income — for a reason other than a legislative session.  It’s why I’ve raised concerns about looming balance-sheet issues that could impact our state’s credit ratings if left unaddressed.  Honest, clear and open discussions are the best way to solve the issues facing Texas.  That’s true for property taxes as well.

Which is why I was so disappointed to read a TribTalk opinion written by perennial candidate Mike Collier that intentionally misleads Texas taxpayers in a desperate attempt to score political points in his race against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.  Dishonesty for the sake of political gain won’t solve the property tax issue.

Mr. Collier twists language in the General Appropriations Act to falsely suggest that the lieutenant governor supported mandatory budget increases and higher property taxes. He then relies on unnamed “whistleblowers” in an attempt to substantiate a patently untrue claim about the role my agency plays in property tax valuations.

Mike Collier should be ashamed of himself.

Let me set the record straight.  Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick and members of the Legislature have worked to alleviate property taxes, and any suggestion to the contrary is dishonest and just plain wrong.  There is still work to be done, and my office is ready to support those efforts with clear and accurate data and analysis.

State law requires my office to conduct a property value study, the purpose of which is to promote equity amongst taxpayers “by providing uniformity in local property appraisal practices and procedures and in the determination of property values for schools in order to distribute funds equitably.”

In short, my office works to ensure appraisals are fair and accurate, not to raise or lower them, as Mr. Collier would like the public to believe. If Mr. Collier paid a bit more attention to the laws of our state — specifically Government Code 403.302 and Education Code 42.254 — rather than citing some so-called whistleblowers, he might be able to contribute constructively to the discussion.

These laws require my office to provide the Legislature and the Texas Education Agency with accurate information regarding property values and estimates for growth or decline in the value of property taxes. Furthermore, the Tax Code instructs local property officials to appraise property at market value.

Mr. Collier’s article clearly shows either his total ignorance regarding Texas law and the state budgeting process — as well as his absolute lack of qualifications for the office he seeks — or his willingness to intentionally mislead Texans about the issues facing our state.

Glenn Hegar

Comptroller of Texas