Texas House, Senate remain at impasse on property tax relief, border security

Eight days into the special session, and there’s still no deal between the House and Senate on Gov. Greg Abbott’s two agenda items: property tax relief and border security.

"The low-hanging fruit didn't pass. The difficult issue didn't pass, and the governor looks like he's just wasted a lot of taxpayer money," said Dr. Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University.

On Wednesday, the Senate did pass two border bills—one making it a state crime to enter Texas illegally, and another creating a Texas Rangers "Border Force." The Senate even passed a modified version of House Bill 2, establishing mandatory minimum sentences for human smugglers.

But those bills can’t go anywhere because the House is not in session. It adjourned last Tuesday, after quickly passing the original HB-2, as well as its property tax relief bill. And property taxes, is where the biggest sticking point lies.

"There's a lot of distance between them, and it's not going to get resolved in this first special session," said Smith.

While both chambers want to spend $17.6 billion to lower property taxes, they remain at a stalemate over how to do it.

The House’s plan would spend all the money on an across-the-board property tax cap, known as "compression." It would spread tax relief out—with school districts, businesses and homeowners all seeing a reduction. Abbott supports that plan.

"Every dollar we spend should go toward that goal so that once and for all we can be known as actually eliminating one of the property taxes in Texas," said Abbott.

But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate want to spend just 70% of that $17.6 billion on compression, and allocate 30% towards increasing the homestead exemption—funneling tax relief directly to homeowners.


"People say, ‘well, Dan, can't you negotiate?’ Well, I think that's negotiating. You want 100%. We'll give you 70%. Give the homeowners 30%. That's a negotiation that we are not backing down from," said Patrick.

Abbott says he’s not giving up.

"I’ll call special session after special session after special session until a solution is reached," said Abbott.

But Smith says Abbott will likely have to broaden the agenda.

"If he just has another narrowly-focused special session on property tax. It will be another 30 days of waste," said Smith.

FOX 7 reached out to House Speaker Dade Phelan’s office for comment Wednesday. As of Wednesday night, we have not heard back. 

Meanwhile, Patrick says senators will remain at the Capitol until next week, in case the House returns.