“It’s no surprise [Whitley], who made [Tarrant County] property taxes among the highest in TX, doesn’t get it. People are being taxed out of their homes by big spending local governments. Collier & Whitley are two-of-a-kind, tax hiking, big spenders,” Patrick tweeted.
Tarrant County levied almost $529 million in property taxes in 2021, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The tax rate was $0.229 per $100 of assessed value.
The Tarrant County Commissioners Court is considering a budget that would increase salaries for local elected officials by seven percent and keep the county tax rate the same. Consequently, property taxes would increase for property owners due to rising valuations.
Whitley told reporters with local ABC affiliate WFAA that Collier “understands local control” and cited his experience in business.
Referencing Patrick’s 2006 election to the Texas Senate, Whitley criticized the lieutenant governor and interest group Empower Texans on the ground that they “declared war on local elected officials.”
“They’ve blamed local governments for all the property tax problems. When, in effect, they’ve vowed that they’re going to lower property taxes, of course they don’t have any property taxes at the state level,” Whitley said.
The county judge went on to criticize the state for keeping prisoners in the Tarrant County Jail when they should be in the state corrections system, among other “unfunded mandates.”
Outgoing Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) also endorsed Collier. Seliger declined a reelection bid this year and is poised to be replaced by Republican nominee Kevin Sparks.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) also crossed party lines to endorse Patrick, calling him “the best [lieutenant governor] I’ve ever served with.”
Lucio listed several issues where he and Patrick see eye-to-eye, including education, teacher pay, property taxes, “mental health funding,” and pro-life issues.
“A Texas Hero & Legend. [Patrick’s] re-election is a must for Texas,” Lucio tweeted.
Patrick wrote in a statement on Tuesday, “I am honored and proud to be endorsed by Senator Eddie Lucio – a respected leader who has often been called ‘the conscience of the Texas Senate.’”
‘Does Not Lead the Party’
Responding to Patrick’s criticism, Whitley told him he “might want to check” his numbers.
“Out of 254 counties in TX, only 6 collect less prop tax per citizen than Tarrant,” Whitley tweeted. “If the state paid for its responsibilities, we’d be even lower. We need a leader who understands numbers & works with local officials to solve problems.”
Rick Barnes, chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, published a statement on Labor Day commenting on Whitley’s endorsement of Collier.
“While I am disappointed in the endorsement Mr. Whitley has made against Lt. Governor Patrick, I am not at all surprised,” Barnes wrote.
“Mr. Whitley has not been in line with the Republican Party for some time now and he continues that position today. Fortunately, Mr. Whitley does not lead the Party in any manner, and we will continue to work hard supporting our entire Republican ticket, from Governor to Constable.”
In 2018, Republican senators representing Tarrant County criticized Whitley after he blamed the Legislature for high property taxes.
Sens. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), and then-Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) authored a letter accusing Whitley of misleading the public about who decides how much property owners pay.
Regarding public education funding, Whitley had implied that the state required a property tax increase, referencing projections by the Legislature that were used for planning purposes.
The lawmakers pointed out that county commissioners courts set the property tax rates for counties and hospital districts.
“Local property tax rates are set by locally elected officials. Period. They are not determined by an informational rider in the state budget as Judge Whitley dishonestly suggests,” they wrote.
“He well knows our school finance formula dictates that local property tax revenue go into the system first, with state funding added on top. This has been the case since the 1940s. Local property tax collections dictate the state’s share of education funding — not vice versa.”
In May 2021, Whitley proposed spending $100 million in taxpayer funds to pay residents $50 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
He is retiring after his term ends on December 31.
In separate statements, Collier remarked that he was “proud” of both Whitley’s and Seliger’s endorsements.
Last month, Collier fell behind Patrick in a poll of registered voters by eight percentage points. The incumbent, who defeated Collier by a margin of five percent in the 2018 election, also has a multi-million dollar fundraising advantage.
Editor’s Notes: Sen. Konni Burton is founder and CEO of The Texan.
This article has been updated to include Lucio’s endorsement.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."