Politics
6:22 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

House Gives Initial OK to Flat-Dollar Homestead Exemption Bill

Cities and counties would have one more tool to give tax breaks to Texas homeowners if a bill by an Austin lawmaker becomes law.

HJR 138 by State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would require voters to approve it in November. That’s because it would amend the Texas Constitution, which allows local governments like cities and counties to give up to a 20 percent homestead exemption. This bill would let them give a flat-dollar exemption, too, an option that only school districts in Texas have.

Taking $15,000 "off the value of a $150,000 dollar home is obviously worth more to that homeowner than $15,000 off a million dollar home," said Dick Lavine, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. "So it would help people struggling right now, people with low and moderate incomes."

But on the House floor today, State Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, made his opposition clear.  

"Eddie, this is counter to what the market is and will discourage home ownership," Rep. Murphy said. "I think it will hurt our tax base in the long run."

Rep. Murphy said because of inflation, lawmakers will regret giving this flat number option as home values change. But House members narrowly agreed with Rep. Rodriguez to give cities more options. Members gave a preliminary yes, voting 69 to 68. After final passage it will go to the Senate.