DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — After seeing his property taxes rise by ten percent, Larry Abeln of Richardson, who's retired, hopes lawmakers will be in a giving mood when they meet early next year to consider a new budget. "As for property tax relief, I'd love to see it. If we could get a 20 percent relief, that would certainly help a lot, give us extra spending money."
There is widespread agreement at the Texas Capitol to cut property taxes during the next legislative session starting in January.
How much still has to be worked out.
At a news conference at the Texas Capitol Wednesday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said giving homeowners a break is his top priority. "The first thing we have to do is more property tax relief."
There's a projected record surplus that may still grow larger.
Governor Greg Abbott campaigned on this issue, saying in Dallas in September that he wanted to use the state's budget surplus to help homeowners and small businesses. "I want to see at least half of that $27 billion to be used to provide the largest property tax cut in the history of our state."
That amounts to about $13 billion.
The Lt. Governor warned as of right now, lawmakers won't be able to do that because it would surpass spending limits set by the Legislative Budget Board for the next two-year budget. "That would bust the spending cap. Unless we find some creative ways to do it. And I think we can."
Historically, the legislature increases spending from one budget cycle to the next by population growth and inflation.
Instead, Patrick said he favors raising the state's homestead exemption from $40,000 to either $60,000 or $65,000.
He said that would cost the state about $2.5 billion.
Democratic State Senator Royce West said Thursday both Democrats and Republicans are on board with property tax relief and will have to figure out the details. "It's one of my number issues also. That's the good news because there's agreement on what we want to do with this budget surplus."
Larry Abeln said, "It's been rough these last two years with inflation so high, property taxes going up ten percent a year. It's been difficult."
There are a lot of other priorities that will be discussed this session:
The state's power grid, school security, mental health, teacher pay, health care.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar will update lawmakers on the surplus and how much they can spend early next month.
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