Op-Ed: Time to reduce local government revenue cap

February 1, 2016

By: Dan Patrick
February 1, 2016

Texans are frustrated with the unsustainable disconnect between constantly increasing local property taxes and household incomes.

That’s why in 2015, 86 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment to increase their homestead exemption for the first time in nearly 20 years.

But more must be done to prevent Texans from being taxed out of their homes, and that’s why I appointed a Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief to identify the scope of this problem and propose solutions to the next Legislature.

The facts are troubling and indisputable. Since 2005, city and property tax levies have increased several times faster than median household incomes. Across the state, city tax levies have increased 60 percent and county tax levies 70 percent, while median household incomes are up 26 percent.

In San Antonio, where the select committee held its first field hearing last week, city tax levies have increased 55 percent and county tax levies have increased 62 percent, compared to a median household income increase of 22 percent.

This disparity is the result of a property tax system that allows local governments to establish tax rates resulting in an 8 percent increase in revenue every year. (For comparison, the current two-year state budget increased spending by 3.6 percent, or 1.8 percent a year.)

Local property taxes must not be allowed to continue to increase at several multiples of the income of taxpayers. Inflation requires additional revenue to provide the same level of services, but the 8 percent revenue cap is simply too high and must be reduced.

The mere suggestion of reducing the flow of revenue to local governments predictably elicits warnings of reduced civil services, such as police and fire protection, trash collection and road maintenance, but potential reforms would only require cities and counties to make their case to voters before dramatically increasing their revenues. Pending voter approval, cities and counties retain total control over where to set their tax rates. In addition, automatic rollback elections should be required for any government entity seeking to exceed its revenue cap.

While school districts are required to hold rollback elections when they exceed the 8 percent revenue cap, cities and counties further challenge taxpayers through a burdensome process that requires signatures from 7 percent of registered voters before holding a rollback election to overturn the proposed increased tax rate and return to the current rate. Signatures must be submitted within 90 days of the adoption of the higher tax rate. (In smaller jurisdictions, the threshold increases to 10 percent of registered voters.)

According to the Texas secretary of state, there are 884,830 registered voters in San Antonio, and 975,415 registered voters in Bexar County. That means San Antonio residents seeking to overturn excessive tax increases by the city must collect 61,938 signatures, or 68,279 signatures to stop excessive county tax hikes, in just 90 days.

Treating cities, counties and schools the same will eliminate this unequal standard and further protect taxpayers.

Over the next several months, the Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief will continue holding hearings across the state, with its next hearing Feb. 11 in Harlingen.

I look forward to the committee’s recommendations, but make no mistake: Preserving the status quo is unacceptable, and the Texas Senate will act on this problem during the 2017 legislative session.

Ally paints a softer side of Cruz ahead of debate

January 29, 2016

San Antonio Express-News (Excerpt)
By: Peggy Fikac
January 28, 2016

AUSTIN – As another GOP presidential debate looms, one of Ted Cruz’s staunchest allies is painting a picture at odds with the U.S. senator’s image as a supremely confident, brash candidate poised for the kill.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is Cruz’s Texas chairman and is campaigning for him in Iowa, said he was with the Cruz family and top team members before the Boulder debate.

“I saw a family that knelt in sincere prayer without any cameras, without any publicity before that debate, asking for God’s guidance,” Patrick said in an interview.

“I saw a candidate who was not like Rocky before a fight – ‘I’m going to go out and knock ‘em out and I’m gonna prevail.’I saw a person who was humbled by the moment and understood the importance of it, and was very aware of what he was about to take on and the seriousness of it, and all the people who were behind him,” Patrick said.

“It was a behind-the-scenes look at Ted that I had never had before. And it wasn’t that of a brash fiery senator who was saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to go out there and knock ‘em out.’ It was a person who was very reflective in prayer very serious in preparation and understood the moment,” Patrick said.

Patrick said that “reassured me I had chosen the right person.”

Patrick pointed out that in a 2013 Texas Tribune interview, he had said he would support Cruz if he ever ran for president.

Click here to read the full article: http://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/Ally-paints-a-softer-side-of-Cruz-ahead-of-debate-6790870.php

TOP TEN MOST CONSERVATIVE TOWNS IN AMERICA

January 8, 2016

Did you know: Five of the 10 most conservative cities in America are located in Texas? Yes, you probably did know. But now you have the cold, hard data to back that presumption, because Crowdpac just released statistics ranking the prominence of liberal or conservative ideologies in almost every city and town across America. Instead of basing the rankings on election ballots and voter registration, Crowdpac took a look at political donations since 2002. Thus, the rankings take into account active participation in political parties outside of elections, as well as which specific candidates townsfolk contributed most to (a Bernie Sanders supporter receives more liberal points than a Barack Obama supporter). Each city is ranked on a 10-point scale, 10C being the most conservative and 10L being the most liberal.

Read more: http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a40536/most-conservative-liberal-cities/?src=social-email

Op-Ed: Why religious liberties must be protected

December 30, 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, it is essential we reflect on the progress that we’ve made and the work yet to be done to protect religious liberties. Religious liberty is the underpinning of our nation and Constitution, and the battle to protect that precious freedom should be fought just as strongly today as it was in 1776.

It’s no wonder that nearly half of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence held seminary or Bible school degrees. Nor is it surprising that John Hancock, the first signer of that American history founding document, said, “Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. … Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.”

Yet, efforts to take those rights from us are still at work: challenges to our national motto, “In God We Trust,” on police cars in Childress; city officials in Orange removing a public Christmas nativity scene out of litigation fears from a group of atheists; or Beaumont city leaders initially blocking police officers from voluntarily participating in Bible studies during their lunch hour.

I took a stand to support religious freedoms on each of these issues and previously led the way to have “In God We Trust” permanently placed in the Texas Senate chamber, added “Under God” to our state pledge, co-authored the “Merry Christmas” bill to combat political correctness in our schools and established an annual Christmas tree tradition in the Texas Senate for the first time in at least 70 years. I was proud to speak out and I will always fight for a nation that was founded upon the Old and New Testaments.

Imagine telling brave men and women who take a potentially life-threatening vow to “Serve, Protect and Defend” that they can’t, on their own time, study their Bible or pray to be kept safe during their work shift. Fortunately, Beaumont city leaders realized trying to keep police officers from Bible studies and prayer was an infringement on the officers’ First Amendment rights; they backed down after I asked them to reconsider.

These scenarios seem all too common in our country that specifically guarantees the free exercise of religion through the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. That’s why the Texas Senate has taken action to reaffirm First Amendment religious liberty protections.

In this year’s legislative session, the Senate passed the Pastors Protection Act to protect houses of worship, religious organizations and their employees and pastors from being required to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies if it would violate their religious beliefs. It also protects such employees, pastors and organizations from lawsuits arising out of the exercise of their First Amendment right.

I also have charged the Senate State Affairs Committee with the task of studying and recommending how the state of Texas should work to affirm the constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty protections of all Texans. The committee is scheduled to have its first hearing on this issue on Feb. 17. As John Hancock penned so many years ago, it is the “Christian and social duty” of all of us to “defend those rights which heaven gave.”

I hope you will join me and the Texas Senate in fighting to preserve our religious freedom. May God bless you and the great state of Texas.

Op-Ed: Dan Patrick is my Texan of the Year

December 8, 2015

Let’s review, shall we? As lieutenant governor, Patrick controls the Senate agenda and is, in many ways, the most powerful figure under the Pink Dome. Of 23 legislative priorities he set out for this year’s session, no fewer than 21 were passed. That includes 4,000 scholarships for math and science teachers, increases in education spending and a plan (approved by voters last month) to spend $2.5 billion on upgrading Texas’ transportation infrastructure. That’s the kind of stuff even Democrats can get behind.

It’s definitely not the stuff that sparks visceral outrage among his ideological opposites — as many political opponents feared when he was elected.

Not that Patrick has shrunk from controversy. He has occasionally sent Democrats and even some moderate Republicans into paroxysms by staking out far-right positions.

Here’s something you may recall. In the midst of a “Black Lives Matter” moment, even before the final echoes of outrage over the arrest and jail death of Sandra Bland, Patrick seized upon the heinous murder of a Harris County deputy and elevated “Police Lives Matter” from slogan to movement. In so doing, Patrick illustrated again how well he understands what motivates and energizes the Texas GOP.

There might be Texas conservatives in higher-profile positions, from pastors in Dallas to a certain junior U.S. senator running for president to the governor. But it is Patrick’s gift with the petit gesture — his mastery of political tactics and strategy, his channeling of right-wing outrage in unapologetic terms — that more accurately and consistently articulates the majority of the Texas body politic today. This is what wins him appearances on FOX News and allows him to avoid mainstream media as much as he wants. In so doing, he has set the pattern for his colleagues.

Read More: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20151207-david-brown-dan-patrick-is-my-texan-of-the-year.ece

Lt. Gov. Patrick says Texas is the envy of the nation

December 8, 2015

Texas remains the envy of the nation, which is why 15 million people will move here in the next 25 years, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Thursday in Waco. That influx will also pressure the state to improve its highways and education system and protect its border with Mexico while maintaining a balanced budget, possibly even enjoying a surplus as it does now.

Giving a “State of the State” talk to local business and community leaders at McLane Stadium’s Baylor Club, Patrick said Texas has the 12th-largest economy in the world and “for the United States to be strong, Texas must be strong” and remain an example of how to create jobs by fostering a pro-business atmosphere.

“There is not another Texas to move to when things go wrong in the other 49 states,” the Houston Republican said. “People moving here see Texas as what they always thought this country should be, a place with low taxes and tort reform that protects business from devastating lawsuits. Most were taxed out of the place they came from.”

He said the state’s population grew from 18 million in 2000 to 27 million today and will reach 42 million by 2040.
“That growth brings tremendous challenge but also opportunity,” said Patrick, adding the state’s leaders have no time to dawdle in preparing for the flood of new arrivals. “The Texas Legislature will have 24 months to act, considering it meets for two months every two years.”

The 84th Texas Legislature passed several pieces of legislation that Patrick lauded Thursday. It earmarked $2.5 billion for highway improvements and construction, increased the homestead exemption on property taxes from $15,000 to $25,000 and set aside $800 million to improve border security.

Increased border funds will allow the state to add two hours to the eight-hour day of every Department of Public Safety trooper, which is equivalent to hiring 600 officers, Patrick said. It makes funds immediately available to Gov. Greg Abbott for ordering National Guard troops to the border whenever he sees fit, without scrounging around for money from other sources as governors have had to do in the past. It will also fund technological improvements to track people trying to enter Texas illegally.

Patrick, during an interview after his talk, said border agents now have access to a second plane “that can spot the watch on your arm.”

He said he also is pleased the Legislature acted to cut by 25 percent the business franchise tax, which is sometimes called the margins tax. Companies with revenue above $1 million pay the tax on gross receipts, leading to some paying it when they make little or no profit, Patrick said.

Read More: http://www.wacotrib.com/news/business/lt-gov-patrick-says-texas-is-the-envy-of-the/article_6fe8c3ce-52bb-54f8-9cc2-eb2300a77276.html

Planned Parenthood Sues Texas in Dispute Over Funding for Clinics

November 24, 2015

HOUSTON — Planned Parenthood sued Texas officials in federal court in Austin on Monday, seeking to block the state from cutting off its Medicaid funding, the latest in a series of lawsuits it has filed against Republican-led states after the controversy over its use of fetal tissue.

Texas and a handful of other states — including Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana — have moved to eliminate Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood amid the controversy. Secretly recorded videos that were released starting in July purported to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of aborted fetal tissue and discussing the issue with abortion opponents who posed as representatives of a biomedical firm.

Days after Gov. Greg Abbott said in October that the state was canceling the group’s Medicaid funding, state health department investigators arrived at Planned Parenthood sites in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Brownsville with orders to turn over thousands of pages of documents, including patients’ records.

Texas lawmakers have taken other actions against abortion providers. In 2013, the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature passed some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country. The bill led to a court case the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear, but has also had a wide-ranging impact on women’s health, abortion rights supporters said.

Texas officials have said cutting off Medicaid funding and the state’s abortion restrictions were aimed at ensuring women received safe health care and protecting unborn children. “Texas must be able to ensure its Medicaid providers protect the health and safety of those seeking services,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement Monday. “Simply stated, Planned Parenthood cannot be trusted.”

Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/24/us/planned-parenthood-sues-texas-in-dispute-over-funding-for-clinics.html

Lt. Governor Patrick Statement on Dallas Bathroom Ordinance

November 11, 2015

AUSTIN – Dan Patrick, Lieutenant Governor of Texas, issued the following statement in response to the actions of the Dallas City Council yesterday:

“I was very proud to help lead the recent effort where an overwhelming majority of voters in Houston successfully voted down the misnamed and misguided HERO ordinance that was last week. That’s why yesterday’s decision by the Dallas City Council, in closed session, to fast-track the enactment of a similar ordinance to allow men in women’s restrooms is both mind-boggling and appalling.

“This ordinance isn’t about discrimination, it’s about political correctness – and Dallas city leaders have put political correctness ahead of both common sense and common decency. The facts are clear. No woman wants a man to be allowed in a ladies restroom or locker room, no matter the reason. And no man wants his wife, daughter, mother, or sister to be forced by law to contend with such an uncomfortable, disruptive, and potentially dangerous intrusion.

“This ludicrous ordinance, like the one in Houston, reveals officials who are totally out of touch with Texas values, I have no doubt that if this issue is put to the voters, as opposed to being decided without adequate public notice and discussion, the people of Dallas – like those in Houston – will give it a resounding no.”

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Lt. Gov. Patrick urges support for propositions

October 6, 2015

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick doesn’t believe property taxes should be the backbone of governmental funding, so he’s traveling the state to drum up support for a proposition to lower property taxes without cutting the money going to schools.

Patrick was in Corpus Christi Monday, and stopped at the airport for a brief meeting with reporters to talk about the seven propositions Texans will vote on next month. His emphasis, however, was on propositions 1 and 7.

The first, which aims to raise the homestead property tax exemption from $15,000 to $25,000, is the first step of a long-term plan to dissociate property tax from increasing appraisal values to alleviate the financial strain on Texans, he said.

Speaking passionately, Patrick said the concept of property appraisals — and property taxes — rising 7-to-9 percent annually while incomes only grow 2-to-3 percent “just doesn’t work.”

He added the state Legislature budgeted $600 million this year to pay school districts any shortfalls in their funding that stem from property tax revenue declining if the proposition is approved. That $600 million comes from the growth in the Texas economy, not from cuts to other government agencies, he explained.

The last proposition on the ballot, and the second one Patrick emphasized Monday, also puts the state’s growing sales tax revenue to use. Proposition 7 would allow the Legislature to designate a portion of sales tax revenue to the Texas Department of Transportation for highway construction projects across the state.

Patrick estimated the proposition would inject Texas roadways with about $2.5 billion annually if approved, and he said not approving it could stunt the state’s growth.

Texas voters will decide on Nov. 3.

Read More: http://www.caller.com/news/politics/state/lt-gov-patrick-urges-support-for-propositions-21615a85-9e08-0280-e053-0100007f5c56-330789521.html

Lt. Gov. Patrick visits San Angelo, says Texas in state of political flux

September 23, 2015

SAN ANGELO, Texas – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick dropped into San Angelo on Tuesday as part of a statewide tour and recalled another time he was here: “It was 1980 and 110 on the thermometer,” Patrick said.

Then a sportscaster, he was covering the Houston Oilers practicing here at their summer football camp.

“I never thought at that time I would become lieutenant governor.”

He remembered dining at Zentner’s Daughter on that trip and was happy to find the restaurant still here, visiting it at lunch.

Patrick met with Angelo State University president Brian May and some local business leaders, including representatives from Hirschfeld Industries steel company and others from ranching to retail.

Patrick said this election year brings a time of great change to West Texas, as numerous officials have announced they are not running for re-election.

“It’s unusual to have so much change at one time,” he said. “Some of the leaders will be in office for 10 years or more.”

Republican Charles Perry, who represents District 28, is among the new blood in the Texas Senate, attaining office a year ago in a special election. He replaced Troy Frazier, who had served this geographically huge district since the 1990s.

“I’ve been singing the praises of your senator,” Patrick said. “He is a strong conservative and had big shoes to fill.

“It is rare for a freshman to chair a committee.”

Perry heads the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs, all of major importance in West Texas.

The lieutenant governor said the 2015 legislative session was successful and that “people think it’s one of the best seasons.”

Patrick highlighted the reduction of business tax by 25 percent, adding that the goal is to reduce the tax further every session and eventually eliminate it.

He supports all seven constitutional amendments that voters will decide Nov. 3, emphasizing:

Read More: www.gosanangelo.com/news/local-news/lt-gov-patrick-visits-city-says-w-texas-in-state-of-political-flux_65223855