September 18, 2023

Why Would They Lie?

In the 1990s television comedy Seinfeld, George Costanza tells Jerry to remember that “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” Perhaps this is the same advice that has been given to Texas Legislators who falsely claim that they gave you $18B in tax relief when they actually only gave you $12.7B in relief.

In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed the Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act, which used state money to “buy down” or compress local property tax rates. The expectation of this bill (and of taxpayers) is that this rate compression would be permanent. Indeed, the Texas Legislature spent $6.1B to continue this compression in 2021, and this year, they allocated $5.3B in the budget which was signed by the Governor on June 18.

In case you’re unsure, here’s the $5.3B in the 2023 budget (Sec 18.79, page 992).

Here’s the math: $2.839B + $2.466B = $5.305B.

The important thing to note here is that the Legislature is simply continuing the property tax relief they promised you in 2019. If they hadn’t included this $5.3B in the budget this year, they would have been raising your taxes.

However, in July, your Legislators came home from the second special session, announcing that they had passed the “largest property tax cut in history.” Over and over again, you have heard that they passed $18B in new tax relief.

In fact, your legislators passed exactly $12.7B in new tax relief but chose to add the $5.3B that they passed on via the 2023 budget to inflate the figure. Never mind the fact that even if that hadn’t passed any tax relief in the special session, the $5.3B would still have been spent.

They are actually taking credit for giving you tax relief that they gave you years ago. Are you shocked that one-third of the tax cut that they’re bragging about is simply smoke and mirrors?

And don’t take my word for it. After the property tax relief package was passed, The Texan said the same thing:

As did the Texas Tribune:

As did the Washington Examiner:

As Blankley points out in the Washington Examiner, this package is just $12.7B in new relief, whereas the largest property tax cut in history (ca. 2008) was approximately $21B, adjusted for inflation. And if you don’t believe these sources, here’s the fiscal note on the property tax relief bill (SB2) showing the $12.7B fiscal impact to biennium (2024/2025) General Revenue as it is allocated to the Foundation School Fund.

Representatives in other districts were straight with their constituents about the size of this tax relief package.

Rep. Nate Schatzline (HD93):

Rep. Tony Tinderholt (HD94):

And yet, on August 23, Rep. Lynn Stucky was asked about the size of the tax cut, and here is what he said:

“It was $18.3B no matter how [we] slice it. It was 18.3, and there will be people who argue that it wasn’t the biggest. But I 100% will–I’m not going to sit here and argue the little points. This was the biggest tax cut ever.”

I don’t know about you, but I think that Rep. Stucky actually thinks it is the biggest tax cut. It seems clear that he believes the lie.

He is, however, completely wrong, and whether through intent or ignorance, he is misleading his constituents. The very least that we can expect from our representatives is that they pay attention enough to know the details, that they vote according to the principles they espoused on the campaign trail and, afterward, that they can come back home and accurately describe what happened.

It’s clear that our rep cannot pull this off. And this is exactly why we need new Representation for Wise and Denton Counties.