AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today responded to a letter from members of the Texas Democratic Congressional Delegation regarding tax burdens on Texans. In his letter, the Governor voices his support of lessening the tax burden on Texans but clarifies that local governments—not the State of Texas—set the property tax rates. The Governor disagreed with the members' support of raising taxes in times of economic prosperity.
"Property owners shouldn’t be saddled with rising property taxes while dealing with a pandemic," said Governor Abbott. "As a result, local governments, who set property tax rates, should find ways to reduce the tax burden on Texans. Whether we're facing times of challenge or times of prosperity—raising taxes on the people of Texas is never the answer."
In his letter, the Governor also urged the members to help pass legislation that protects business owners, healthcare facilities and employees, and first responders from being held liable for COVID-19 exposure claims when they adhere to relevant public health guidelines and make good faith efforts to limit the risk of exposure and infection.
The letter from the governor reads:
Dear Congressional Members: I am in receipt of your May 13, 2020, letter, and we are in agreement on several points. As public servants, we “must look for ways to ensure Texans can save some money in order to use it for other much-needed purposes at this critical time.” “There is no greater need than taking care of the hard working people of Texas and assuring (sic.) our business community survives and continues to thrive after this pandemic is over.” It is “essential that we lessen the burden on those we serve to the extent we can.” Increasing the tax “burden on our people is the wrong path forward.”
However, I strongly disagree with you on one key point. While you “believe in raising property taxes when times are good,” I do not. We have a fundamental disagreement on this point. Just because times are good does not mean the government needs to take more hard-earned money from Texans.
To that end, I strongly encourage local governments to adopt property tax rates that will not result in an increase in the tax burden. This power is wholly within their control. As you know, Congressional Members May 19, 2020 Page 2 local governments—not the State of Texas—set the property tax rates, and they are the ones responsible for an increase (or, ideally, decrease) in property taxes. The state, for example, took the unprecedented step last year in reducing school property tax rates, and requiring those rates to continue to decline as property values increase.
Property taxes aside, I do hope that you will help pass legislation to protect business owners, health care facilities and employees, and first responders from being held liable for COVID-19 exposure claims when they adhere to relevant public health guidelines and make good faith efforts to limit the risk of exposure and infection. Such legislation is supported by many Texans, including myself, Lieutenant Governor Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen, and would ensure our business community survives and continues to thrive after this pandemic is over.
Getting people back to work in a safe manner is incredibly important, and vital to our continued success as a state. Providing this liability protection will help encourage businesses to open and follow the best practice protocols to keep our communities safe.
Sincerely, Greg Abbot, Governor.