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Gov. Greg Abbott makes good on veto promise over Legislature’s property tax impasse

By William Melhado, The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott makes good on veto promise over Legislature’s property tax impasse” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Gov. Greg Abbott has started to follow through with his threat to veto a large number of bills in the absence of a House-Senate compromise on property taxes. As of Thursday, the governor had vetoed eight bills in the last three days, five of which originated in the Senate, adding fuel to his feud with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

On Wednesday during a bill-signing ceremony at the Capitol, Abbott threatened to veto a significant number of the hundreds of bills that he hasn’t signed yet. Until lawmakers reach a property tax compromise, Abbott said he “can’t ensure that any bill that has not yet been signed is going to be signed.”

The governor has three more days to veto legislation before those bills from the regular session become law, with or without his signature. When the House and Senate failed to reach a compromise on property tax relief during the regular session, Abbott immediately called lawmakers into a special session. The House and Senate have yet to find a mutual agreement on the issue as they differ on how exactly to make property tax cuts.

[Texas Republicans are fighting over how to split $12.3 billion in property tax breaks between homeowners and businesses]

In the last three days, the governor has axed three bills authored by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, the Senate’s top expert on property taxes. In explaining the reason for the recent string of vetoes, Abbott said other issues are off the table until the House and Senate come to an agreement.

“This bill can be reconsidered at a future special session only after property tax relief is passed,” Abbott wrote in his Thursday veto proclamation for three bills, including Senate Bill 1998, an uncontroversial piece of legislation that would have made changes to tax rate calculation forms for property taxes.

Abbott included the same message — this bill can wait — in the seven other vetoes he has issued since Tuesday.

Other vetoed bills ranged in focus from the sale of charitable raffle tickets to where tenants can find contractors to make repairs.

The rash of vetoes further provoked Patrick, who has staunchly defended the Senate’s version of property tax relief.

“This is targeted vetoing of bills that have nothing to do with the issue at hand except Paul Bettencourt is the author of those bills,” Patrick said during a Dallas press conference on Thursday. “It’s not a very good image to veto bills for no reason other than he didn’t get the property tax bill he wants.”

Patrick’s public barbs directed toward Abbott were unusual, given the two Republicans have historically worked out their differences behind the scenes. Abbott initially supported the House’s version of property tax relief but he has since asked the two chambers to strike an agreement that can reach his desk. Neither Abbott nor Patrick’s offices immediately returned requests for comment on Thursday evening.

The House and Senate have been at odds over the best way to deliver property tax relief since the special session began on May 29, the same day the regular session ended.

Abbott called for lawmakers to exclusively focus on a method known as compression, or sending state funds to school districts to help lower their property tax rates. The House quickly obliged Abbott and left town, but the Senate has remained in session while insisting on also increasing the homestead exemption, which is the chunk of a home’s appraised value that is exempt from property taxes.

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