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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bonnen Authors Bill to Permanently End Trans Texas Corridor

Insider's Report Vol. 7, No. 16

Reiterates stance on appraisal caps

Since its inception, I have been extremely skeptical of the planning and implementation of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC).  The footprint of this proposal would be of great detriment to small communities, inflict irreversible damage upon the landscape of rural Texas, and violate the private property rights of Texas landowners.  To that end, I took several actions during the 2007 legislative session aimed at crippling the TTC.

Thanks to the strong voices of citizens in southern Brazoria County and across the state, as well as a determined delegation of the Legislature, we were successful in bringing about an announcement by the Texas Department of Transportation earlier this year that "the days of the TTC are over."  While triumphant over this decision, I remain concerned that Texas statute continues to refer to this proposal and grants certain related powers to the department.

In response, I am a joint-author of House Bill 11 this session that would completely repeal all authorities and references in Texas law pertaining to the TTC.  In essence, this bill will put the final nail in the coffin of the corridor.  As a part of my legislative efforts to stop questionable and obtrusive transportation practices in Texas, I have also joint-authored HB 13 to place greater limits on the establishment of toll roads.  Specifically, this bill will prohibit TxDOT from operating a toll project unless it was open as a turnpike project before September 1, 2005, or was initially described to the public as a toll road.

I am also continuing my efforts to address runaway appraisals and skyrocketing property taxes.  I have fully supported many different proposals over the past several sessions to restore transparency to our property tax system.  I helped pass House Bill 1 during the school finance special session in 2006 mandating a one-third reduction in school district maintenance and operation taxes.

In an effort to keep this savings from being diminished by rising appraisals, I also filed legislation during past sessions to impose a three percent cap on appraisal increases.  This session, I have co-authored HB 46 to authorize a local option election for the voters of a county to impose a limit on the annual increase in the appraised value of their homesteads.  This limit could be as low as three-percent and would apply to all taxing units.  I fully support putting this decision in the hands of taxpayers who can best determine the needs of their local communities.

In addition to this proposal, I have also co-authored HB 742 to statutorily put into effect a constitutional amendment that was overwhelmingly approved by over 85 percent of voters in 2007.  This bill  would exempt from taxation the total appraised value of a 100%-disabled veteran's residence homestead.  It also aligns our state's property tax exemption eligibility requirements with federal veteran disability ratings.

My constituents have made it clear that transportation and property taxes are among the most pressing issues before the Legislature this session.  In response, I will continue my work to see that they are addressed in a such a way that protects the rights of property owners and provides relief to taxpayers.