Hurricane Harvey has wiped away value from many Texans’ homes. To continue to tax them as if the storm never happened is akin to taxing property that doesn’t exist. Since the Texas Constitution states that property subject to taxation shall be appraised at market value, taxing the lost value violates the spirit of the law.
Clearly, if our political leaders had even a passing interest in fairness, and if they had any fidelity to the Texas Constitution, they would immediately adjust the post-storm value of all residential properties affected by the storm and reduce homeowners’ tax bills accordingly. Homeowners devastated by Harvey have suffered a lot. We shouldn’t add insult to their injury by taxing properties on value that’s gone.
But in a stunning development this past weekend, officials in Houston and Rockport, two areas where tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed, announced that they would not reappraise homes or reduce their taxes. This is insanely unfair treatment of homeowners who have already suffered enough.
Why? According to Houston and Rockport officials, it’s a hassle to reappraise damaged homes. If that weren’t lame enough, one official said he simply needs the money.
Our lieutenant governor, bizarrely obsessed with bathrooms, refused to consider a bill written by someone in his own party that would have protected ordinary homeowners from this risk. The bill would have required reappraisals after a storm. Thanks to Dan Patrick, no such protection exists. As for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who often remains silent on matters related to Texas, he is, well, silent.
The root cause of our property tax crisis in Texas is this: the party-in-charge never worries about losing elections. They don’t need to spend time protecting the interests of ordinary Texans. They only care about raising campaign money from the ultra-rich and big corporations
But let the party-in-charge lose just one general election (that’s why I’m seeking the Democratic party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, to beat Dan Patrick in November 2018), and every politician in the state will suddenly discover that they are accountable to Texans. They will start with common sense action, like using The Rainy Day Fund to help Texans rebuild their communities after the rainiest day in recorded American history. They will require reappraisals of homes damaged by storms so that victims would at least feel they are being treated fairly. And they would go back to the big corporations and require them to pay the taxes that are due under the Texas Constitution.
But hand them a loss in 2018, which is what I and many Democrats are working hard to do, and watch how quickly everyone starts treating ordinary Texans fairly again.