I'm Voting NO on ALL the Constitutional Amendments (Texas) November 2015


 

I'm Voting NO on ALL the Constitutional Amendments (Texas) November 2015
 


24 October 2015 at 10:40:54 AM
salon

My first criteria is always, first, WHY does someone want to change the Texas CONSTITUTION instead of just a law? Second question is always, who really wanted this? Since there is a real estate portion of this that has to do with transfer taxes, which Texas currently doesn't have, seems like the Real Estate lobby is driving this.  Third, I am always suspicious of anything on the ballot that tells people to hurry up and vote early-always feel like they're trying to prevent people from voting and then finding out what the real deal is. 

And yes, that appears to be true. From 2011, Keller Williams on a blog, laments the attempts by the Texas Lege to pass a transfer tax (Incidentally, MOST states have a transfer tax on simple real estate transfers and the seller typically pays it, although that can be negotiated).

According to the Texas Association of REALTORS®: "A real estate transfer tax is a tax assessed when ownership of property is transferred from one party to another. Some states also assess such a tax on long-term leases. This type of tax typically comes in the form of a percentage of the value of the property."

Currently, Texas is one of only 13 states without a real estate transfer tax. However, with a $25 billion projected budget shortfall, the state is eager to get money from any means available and the real estate industry is a prime target. Transfer tax amounts vary by state from 0.1 percent of the purchase price to as much as 1.5 percent of the purchase. Therefore, on the sale of a $200,000 home, a 1.5 transfer tax could add as much as $3,000 in additional costs that a buyer or seller would have to pay at closing.

And then the blog goes on to say that the real estate lobby will be working against it. It would be interesting to see just how many Texas Legislators voted for this and ALSO are in the pocket of the real estate lobby. Maybe start with Jane Nelson. 

At least the FW Star-Telegram mentions the real estate situation.

Piggy-backed on the increased school property tax exemption is a constitutional prohibition against any future law imposing a transfer tax on real estate transactions.

Given the high esteem that Texans and their lawmakers properly hold for private property ownership, the chances of the Legislature ever considering a transfer tax (sales tax) on real estate are slim.

But many people, especially Realtors, want to rule it out with a constitutional prohibition.

It would make Proposition 1 a cleaner proposal to argue about a transfer tax in the future in the unlikely event that it ever came up.

So, seems like a tradeoff, eh? "Damn it, we want to avoid the transfer tax, but we have to give up SOMETHING or people won't vote for it!"  

Comments by Opponents. The increase in the mandatory school district residence homestead exemption will provide only nominal property tax relief for homeowners. The exemption will reduce property taxes for the average homeowner by about $126 a year. Increases in appraisals and local property tax rates may mean that no actual reduction in property taxes occurs, merely a reduction in the rate of growth of property taxes. Furthermore, the homestead exemption increase provides no benefit whatsoever for those who rent their homes. While the homestead exemption increase will provide only nominal property tax relief for any individual homeowner and no relief at all for those who do not own their own homes, it will cost the state $1.24 billion every two years to make up the revenue loss for school districts. That is in addition to the $8.4 billion a year the state already spends for tax relief provided in prior years that likewise never materialized because of rising appraisals and tax rates. Rather than spending money making up for an illusory tax cut that benefits only certain property owners, the legislature should cut other state taxes, such as sales or franchise taxes, or increase spending on transportation and other infrastructure, education, or other critical needs. A sales tax cut would benefit everyone, not just homeowners. Also, because the state controls the rates of the sales and franchise taxes, a sales or franchise tax cut would not be undermined by actions  taken at the local level. Furthermore, a cut in the sales or franchise tax would create more jobs and economic activity than an increase in the homestead exemption. Finally, it is not clear that the state will continue to generate revenue surpluses sufficient to make up the revenue loss to school districts arising from the homestead exemption increase. Property taxes are a local matter. The best way to control local property taxes is for voters to hold local officials accountable. The provision of the proposed amendment authorizing the legislature to prohibit a political subdivision that has adopted a local option exemption of a percentage of the market value of a homestead from reducing the amount of or repealing the exemption is overbroad in that it is not limited to school districts. While it is understandable that the legislature might desire to prevent school districts that have adopted a local option percentage exemption from reducing the amount of or repealing the exemption to negate the increase in the amount of the mandatory school district residence homestead exemption, there is no reason to prohibit other political subdivisions not affected by the increase in the exemption from school district taxes from reducing the amount of or repealing a local option exemption. Furthermore, it is inappropriate for the legislature to mandate that a school district that has elected to offer such an exemption continue doing so if the legislature is not going to make up the revenue loss to the school district. If the economy were to decline or the legislature were to cut funding for education, a school district that elected to offer such an exemption might determine that it could no longer afford to continue doing so, but the proposed amendment would authorize the legislature to mandate that it continue doing so without making up the revenue loss to the district. A local option exemption, having been adopted, would effectively become a mandatory exemption. The provision of the proposed amendment prohibiting a transfer tax on real estate transactions is unnecessary because such transactions are not currently subject to taxation, nor is such a tax currently under consideration. Furthermore, the provision is unwise in that it precludes a future legislature from considering such a tax as a means of addressing a revenue shortfall. Finally, it singles out one particular type of transaction for special treatment when no similar protection is provided for transactions in other goods that are just as essential, including food and medicine.

I'm voting NO.  

P.S. in that TLC link above, be sure to read the other ones, Do you REALLY want to allow YOUR texas elected representative to live somewhere else in the state other than Austin? Hah, how about Muleshoe? Think that person would be in Austin in person most of the time? Pah. 

 


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