Chron editorialists rage at state lege, Bettencourt

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It’s hard to get anything past the astute political observers at the Chronicle:

RECENTLY Houston City Council voted to set this year’s property tax rate at 64.75 cents per $100, a quarter cent below last year’s rate. Some city officials portrayed the action as a tax cut, causing two dissenting council members and Harris County Tax Assessor & Collector Paul Bettencourt to object.

Bettencourt claimed that since higher appraisals of property had resulted in an increase in city revenue, the small reduction in the rate actually constituted a tax increase. He pointed to a newly minted amendment in the state tax code that forced the city to print the following in extra-large type in the ordinance setting the tax rate: “This tax rate will raise more taxes for maintenance and operations than last year’s tax rate.” A similar statement must peg the exact amount that will result from higher appraisal rates on a $100,000 home. In Houston, the increase will be $5.77.

The law is an attempt by legislators to intimidate local officials and badger them into lowering taxes in order to avoid the political pariah label of being a tax raiser, even when the tax rate is reduced.

Yes, that’s exactly what it is.

It’s not clear that the legislature’s action really merits that degree of rage from the editorial idealists towards Paul Bettencourt, though.

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