The Back MicThe Back Mic: Democrat Calls for $5 Billion Property Tax Cut, Abbott Announces $55 Million War Chest, State Revenue Estimate Improves Fiscal Outlook

This week — a lawmaker rallies behind a special session property tax cut, Governor Abbott announces massive fundraising haul, and the state’s accountant unveils optimistic biennial revenue update.
July 9, 2021
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Rep. Raymond Asks Abbott to Add Property Tax Cut to Special Session Call

Governor Greg Abbott included property tax relief on the list of special session items, but a Texas Democrat has called on him to be more specific about the charge.

Rep. Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo) called on Abbott to include a $5 billion property tax compression of school district Maintenance & Operations rates — similar to what the legislature did in 2019 — to the special session agenda.

“I have asked Governor Abbott to allow the people of Texas to vote on a property tax cut this November. We can do this by using $5 billion from the Rainy Day Fund,” Raymond said in a press release.

“If it passes — and I believe it would pass with overwhelming support — it would still leave at least $6.5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund.”

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Texas’ school finance system functions like a seesaw: as the state’s share of the funding increases the local school district’s share decreases, reducing rates at the local level. The tax compression last session injected $5.1 billion toward reducing local tax rates.

Raymond’s proposal would take similar shape.

Abbott Raises $18.7 Million in 10-Day Period

Abbott’s campaign announced Thursday he has accumulated a $55 million war chest. This comes after a 10-day fundraising period during which the incumbent governor raised $18.7 million.

“Our record-breaking fundraising period is a testament to the success of the 87th Legislative Session and paints a clear picture of what matters most to Texans: freedom, opportunity, and economic prosperity,” Abbott said in a release.

“These values embody the spirit of Texas, and these values are what our campaign fights for every single day. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we will continue to secure an even brighter future for the Lone Star State by keeping Texas red and ensuring our state remains the greatest state in the nation.”

Abbott is facing a three-person primary challenge between former state Sen. Don Huffines, conservative humorist Chad Prather, and outgoing Texas GOP Chair Allen West.

The Texas governor’s fundraising rush is likely at least partially due to the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

The July semiannual filing deadline passed on July 1, but the reports are not due until July 15. Once that passes, the financial situation of the GOP gubernatorial primary — and the challengers’ proximity to Abbott — will become more clear.

New Revenue Estimate Shows Improved Fiscal Picture

About a year after the dire projection of a $4.6 billion budget shortfall, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts now estimates a $5 billion surplus for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. He also projects about $8 billion more in available general revenue spending for the 2022-2023 biennium compared with his January estimate.

The legislature appropriated $116 billion in general revenue funds — less than the $123 billion estimated by the comptroller this month.

“The Texas economy rebounded strongly this spring as vaccination rates increased and the economy opened more fully, and we remain optimistic about growth in the near term as the state’s economy continues to return to pre-pandemic patterns,” Comptroller Glenn Hegar, said in a letter to state leaders.

Hegar further projects an over $3 billion deposit into the State Highway and Economic Stabilization Funds over the next biennium — the latter estimated to end the biennium with a balance of $12 billion.

Citing the global supply chain stress combined with increased demand for goods and the nation’s rehiring struggles, Hegar pumped the brakes on total fiscal optimism.

“Until supply-side issues are resolved, economic output may remain below its potential, and rising costs could erode consumer purchasing power.”

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.