Abbott kicks property tax rate decisions back to local governments

Gov. Greg Abbott has responded to members of a Democratic congressional delegation’s pleas to alleviate tax burdens on Texans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, were among the 10 members of the delegation who penned a letter to Abbott on May 13 calling for him to suspend any raises, interest and penalties on property taxes for the current taxable year.

In Abbott’s response Tuesday, he stated his support for lessening the tax burden on Texans, but explained that local governments set the property tax rates, not the state.

“Property owners shouldn’t be saddled with rising property taxes while dealing with a pandemic,” Abbott said in a news release. “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, Abbott said he disagreed with the delegation’s suggestion to raise property taxes at the conclusion of the pandemic.

“While you ‘believe in raising property taxes when times are good,’ I do not,” Abbott stated in his letter. “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.”

Abbott goes on to encourage local governments against adopting property tax rates that will result in an “increase in the tax burden.”

The delegation’s letter came just as the deadline for property owners whose valuations have increased by more than $1,000 to contest the appraisals was set to pass.

Due to the pandemic, the local appraisal office remains closed and therefore could not be made in person. Instead, claims had to be filed via mail, a drop box outside the building located at 4405 S. Professional Drive in Edinburg, or through an online portal on the district’s website,

The governor also urged members of the delegation to help pass legislation that will protect business owners, healthcare facilities and employees, and first responders.

“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,” Abbott said in the letter. “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.”