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AUSTIN — Texas Senators are firmly against appraisal caps to address rising property taxes, but most Texans support it.

A new poll by Texas Hispanic Foundation released Tuesday surveyed 1,000 Texas voters on the proposed property tax legislation this session.

It found that 86% of Texans said they support the Senate’s version of property tax relief that would increase the residential homestead exemption from $40,000 to $70,000 with an exemption up to $100,000 for those 65 and older. About 57% said they strongly support the measure.

In addition, 85% of Texans said they support the House’s version, which would decrease the yearly appraisal cap from 10% to 5% for residential property and extend this benefit to commercial property. About 55% said they strongly support this approach.

When forced to choose between the two bills, 50% of Texans opt for the Senate version and 38% for the House version, with 12% of Texans opposing both property tax relief proposals.

“One thing that was very noteworthy is the overwhelming support for both property tax relief proposals, suggesting that Texans don't want to have to choose between the two proposals. They would rather see both an appraisal cap as well as an increase in the property tax exemption,” said Mark Jones, political scientist at Rice University.

After the survey was concluded, the House passed a property tax relief bill that would both raise the homestead exemptions and include an appraisal cap, now referred to as Senate Bill 3. As of Tuesday morning, the bill had been returned to the Senate for re-approval.

Initially Senate leaders including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, were against an appraisal cap, stating previously that he did not believe they provide meaningful relief, but Jones said that could change as the session is winding down.

“I think there's a strong incentive for the Senate to pass (the dual property tax bill), just because it has everything that pretty much everyone wanted, and would allow Republicans to claim property tax relief as an achievement,” Jones said.

However, he added that with less than a week left in the regular session, the decisions may still get pushed into a special session.

The survey also evaluated Texans across other key topics this session, including bills impacting transgender people and school choice.

The Legislature spent time this session pushing anti-trans bills including the recently passed SB 14, which prohibits transgender gender-affirming treatment for minors.

About 66% of respondents said they support this measure.

The plurality of those surveyed said they also favor legislation that prohibits transgender women athletes in women's college sports and classifying drag shows as sexually oriented businesses. Both bills are on their way to full approval.

“We can see why Republicans have focused on the issue of gender affirming of transgender, gender affirming care for transgender children, transgender college athletes, and drag shows, because two thirds of Texans agree with Republicans on that issue and even two-fifths of Democrats agree with them,” Jones said.

The survey also found fractions on school choice, which would allow for public education funds to follow students to the school of their choice, including private, religious and home-school options. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has named school choice a top priority.

About 58% of Texans said they support school choice legislation with 25% stating they strongly support it. About 42% of Texans, however, said they oppose the measure, with 29% staying strongly.

The poll also found that Black Texans at 70% were more likely to support school choice than Hispanic and non-Hispanic White Texans, at 55% and 59% respectively.

Even though most Black Democratic lawmakers have attempted to paint school choice as harmful to public schools in these communities, Jones said many Black Texans are not buying it.

“I think for many African Americans who live in metro Houston and metro Dallas, which is where the majority of Texas African Americans live, their belief is how much worse could the schools actually get?” Jones said. “Vouchers at least would provide them with a lifeline or as an escape valve that presently doesn't exist.”

The voucher program is currently being debated in the Legislature with the House offering a watered down version of the Senate’s proposals.

Abbott threatened a special session last week, stating that he wanted to see school choice legislation that aligned with the Senate’s bill.

Jones warned that Texas Democrats should be careful on how they approach school choice and allow it to fail, because Abbott has previously used a special session to not only get the bill he wants passed but add in other Republican priorities that failed in the regular session.

During the 2021 legislative cycle, Texas Democrats successfully killed a bill that would ban transgender kids from participating in sports opposite of the sex they were assigned at birth. Abbott, who favored the bill, called it back in a special session and added other priority legislation on election reform to appease his base, Jones said.

Jones added that would likely happen again with school choice and other topics such as those related to higher education and critical race theory.

“One of the lessons that Abbott tried to instill in House Democrats and moderate Republicans in 2021 was be careful what you wish for,” he said.

The last day of the regular session is May 29.

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