Mayor's Office Press Release

Mayor Turner Responds to Senator Regarding Tax Rate

October 18, 2017 -- Statement by Mayor Sylvester Turner:

"In a written statement published today, state Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston questioned my credibility on the issue of taxing property owned by residents of the city. But in doing so, the senator is a hypocrite who either forgot his own record or assumed others would.'

"It’s time to set the factual record straight.'

"Sen. Bettencourt stated that instead of keeping property tax rates at the current level, which is what I proposed for Houston, governments should instead lower property value appraisals 'to give flooded out homeowners a break.''

"The facts show I would have done exactly that – taken the Hurricane Harvey flood damages into account when levying property taxes – if Sen. Bettencourt had not failed to pass a bill in the Senate that was adopted 148 to 0 in the state House. At the very least, he should have supported passage of the bill that would have helped everyone whose home flooded.'

"Sen. Bettencourt, who claims to be a taxpayer watchdog, barks often.'

"But in the regular session of the Texas Legislature, this year and in the special session that followed, the Senate had an opportunity to pass legislation that would require local governments to reappraise homes and businesses that suffered damage in disasters like Hurricane Harvey. This requirement would have allowed all ad-valorem taxing entities to share the cost of reappraisals. Sen. Bettencourt did nothing.'

"After Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston got her bill through the House, the bill never received a hearing in the Senate. Again during the special session, the House passed Rep. Davis’s bill without opposition. The bill, nor any similar bill by a Senate author, did not even get taken up by a Senate committee.  State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton and chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, said he believed the Senate was guilty of engaging in 'fake junior high politics' in not passing the Davis bill (Houston Chronicle 10/5/2017).

Sen. Bettencourt claims he wants to protect taxpayers now, but when he had an opportunity to take action, he chose to play politics instead and took no action.'

"Also in his news release today, Bettencourt falsely accused me of breaking a promise to not pursue an option to temporarily raise the city property tax rate to pay for disaster recovery. I kept my promise, taking the tax rate increase off the table and keeping it off the table after Gov. Abbott provided the city with recovery funds.'

"This week I proposed keeping the city’s property tax rate unchanged from last year. The City Council today lowered the property tax rate instead, costing the City $7.8 million, while we ask the federal and state government for more recovery money.'

"In 2015 and 2016, when declared disasters were factored in to the revenue taken in by the City of Houston – the amount was $15 million and $6 million respectively -- Sen. Bettencourt offered no criticism in either case.'

"This year the senator repeatedly called on me to provide emergency services to the public, and I responded. If Sen. Bettencourt is now stating there was no emergency in dealing with Hurricane Harvey, his repeated requests for services proved otherwise.'

"That’s not all.'

"Sen. Bettencourt voted for a state budget that depends on increased property appraisals for it to balance.'

"'Property values, and the estimates of local tax collections on which they are based, shall be increased by 7.04 percent for tax year 2017 and by 6.77 percent for tax year 2018,' said the budget bill he backed.'

"It’s strikingly two-faced to accuse a municipality dealing with an unprecedented natural disaster of keeping a tax rate steady when his own budget dictates local tax increases. At the same time, he remains surprisingly silent about the State’s $10 billion Rainy Day Fund.'

"This dog doesn’t hunt."