SAN ANTONIO – Texas voters will decide on multiple propositions this year, including Proposition 2, which involves transportation funding.
“The constitutional amendment authorizing a county to finance the development or redevelopment of transportation or infrastructure in unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas in the county,” the ballot language reads about Prop 2.
Supporters of the proposition say it’s a way for Texas counties to fund vital transportation improvements, while opponents claim it’s just a tax increase by another name.
If passed, the proposition would allow counties to use what’s known as tax increment financing, or TIF, to fund transportation projects in certain areas. It allows governments to borrow money in those zones and pledge future tax revenues to pay it back.
Adam Haynes, policy director for the Texas Conference of Urban Counties, pointed to the growth along Loop 1604 as an example of how it will work.
“As Loop 1604 lengthened and expanded, the property tax and the valuation out there went … skyward,” Haynes said. “And so that’s what you do. You do the financing and then you reclaim the value to pay off those bonds.”
The resolution that authorized Prop 2 enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the Texas Legislature. That doesn’t mean there aren’t opponents.
“When we already have a DEFCON 5 local debt problem in Texas, this is the last thing we want to do, is to give government more tools to continue to issue debt, especially with property tax being such a huge problem in the state of Texas,” said Terri Hall, founder and director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and Texans for Toll-Free Highways.
Hall said voters should do the same thing they did to similar Prop 4 ten years ago and vote no.
“Anytime you can take up to 65% of your existing taxes and spend it someplace else, you’re going to have your existing taxes go up to pay for that hole that’s created by that diversion of money,” Hall said.
Supporters of Prop 2 say that’s not necessarily the case, and new revenues created by development around the improvements will help pay for them.
They contend that as county governments are shouldering more of the burden of growth, it’s only fair they have the same tools that cities like San Antonio can use to fund improvements.
“And if you are concerned or tired or whatever about your property taxes rising, give counties another tool so that we can lessen that impact because we’re going to have to build roads,” Haynes said. “And if we build roads through tax increment financing, then it’s a little bit of a relief on property taxes in general.”
Early voting is underway ahead of Election Day, which is Nov. 2.
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