Texas May 7 ballot measure election preview

Texas voters are heading to the polls on May 7 to decide two statewide constitutional amendments and a variety of local ballot measures.

The constitutional amendments concern state property taxes. Proposition 1 would amend the state constitution to authorize the state legislature to reduce the property tax limit for school maintenance and operations taxes levied on the homesteads of elderly or disabled residents to reflect any tax rate reduction enacted by law from the preceding tax year. In 2019, the Texas State Legislature passed House Bill 3 (HB 3), which provided school maintenance and operations tax rate compression. However, the rate reduction did not apply to the homesteads of elderly or disabled residents. Proposition 1 would extend the reduction to include those homesteads.

Proposition 2 would increase the homestead exemption for school district property taxes from $25,000 to $40,000. The increased exemption would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, and applies only to a tax year beginning on or after that date. Voters last increased the exemption in 2015 with the passage of Proposition 1, which increased it from $15,000 to $25,000.

The amendments have both been endorsed by the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial Board, and the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board. The Austin Chronicle Editorial Board endorsed Proposition 1 but came out in opposition to Proposition 2, saying, “Prop 2 is much more straightforward but is also just straight-up pandering. It’s almost guaranteed to pass now that everyone’s seen their new tax appraisals, but increasing the school district homestead exemption (from $25,000 to $40,000) is the coward’s way out of broad-based tax relief: Schools really need that money, and in many cases, this simply shifts the burden to renters.”

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R), the sponsor of both amendments, said, “People see the need for property tax relief, and Texans are going to cry out for that continuously. This is a great way to bring that home to all of the taxpayers of Texas.”

Ballotpedia is also covering 25 local ballot measures in Texas. Austin voters will decide on Proposition A, which would decriminalize marijuana and prohibit the use of no-knock warrants. The proposition is a ballot initiative that was sponsored by Ground Game Texas. Supporters include former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro (D), gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), former State Rep. Wendy Davis (D), and Austin Mayor Stephen Adler (D).

Voters in San Antonio will decide on six bond issues totaling $1.2 billion. The revenue from the bonds would fund streets and sidewalk improvements, drainage and flood projects, parks and recreation, library and cultural facilities, public safety, and housing for households at certain income levels.

Fort Worth voters will decide on five bond issues and 13 charter amendments. The five bond issues total $560 million for roads and transportation improvements, parks and recreation, library improvements, police and public safety, and natural area and open space projects. The 13 charter amendments relate to salary increases for the mayor and city council members; city redistricting standards; requirements for the removal of local officials; initiative petitions; annexation elections; the role of the city’s independent auditor; and other local government administration.

Early voting started on Monday, April 25, and runs through Tuesday, May 3. On election day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

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