By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Beto O’Rourke, democratic candidate for Texas governor, had a lot to say about Gov.Greg Abbott for letting property taxes skyrocket by $20 billion since he began serving Texas in 2015.
O’Rourke held a press conference in South Dallas addressing the issue and explained how he would lower property taxes if he became governor on April 20 outside of Temple of God Deliverance Church.
He was joined by Dallas City Council member Adam Bazaldua of District 7, State Sen. Nathan Johnson of District 16 and Alendra Lyons, president of Dallas’s Mill City Community Association.
O’Rourke, a former El Paso congressman, will challenge Abbott next November in the race for governor. He discussed how he would make Texas affordable for everyone to live despite inflation.
“Every single Texan that I’ve listened to, certainly here in North Texas, said they are concerned about the dramatic increase in property taxes that we are seeing right now under Greg Abbott’s leadership,” O’Rourke said. “Seven years, property taxes have gone up $20 million in the state of Texas. That’s an increase of 40% over where we were since he first began. The reason we want to be here in South Oak Cliff is residents and folks who’ve lived their entire lives here, maybe generations in their family, are about to get priced out of their homes and priced out of this neighborhood due to the increase of property taxes.”
He said increasing housing in the state and legalizing and regulating marijuana in the state might lead to revenue that can be used to address the housing inflation crisis and bring property tax relief.
“Number one, we do not have enough housing in this state and we’re one of the fastest growing states in the union and capacity is not keeping up with demand,” he said. “And we’re not getting paid to be able to afford them. One of the reasons I’m so glad the council member is here is that as governor, I’m going to work with the local city council’s, local commissioners and local leadership to make sure we address this desperate shortage in housing across the state of Texas.”
Next, O’Rourke discussed how property owners and the state should pay their fair share of money to help bring housing costs down.
“We need fairness in appraisals,” he said. “Fairness in what people are paying in property taxes. Most homeowners cannot afford the lobbyists or the attorneys that can contest corporate valuations. And so corporate property owners are able to bring down their bills by billions of dollars. As governor, I’m going to work with the legislature to ensure that we have full sales prices in the state of Texas so that everyone is paying their fair share. Which means that homeowners make less. The legislature makes sure that the state of Texas is funding its fair share of public education. While property owners and primarily homeowners and renters are paying the lion’s share of the burden at a local level to fund our government, far too often, corporations and the very wealthiest are getting out of their fair share and that’s because the law under Greg Abbott allows them to do that. We need fairness in appraisals, and we need fairness in what people are paying in their property taxes.”
Third, O’Rourke said as governor he would make sure that the state of Texas is funding its fair share of public education.
“It used to be historically that the state would pay 50 and the local property taxpayer would pay 50,” he said. “Under Greg Abbott, it is about 60% to the local property taxpayer and only 40% to the state of Texas.”
O’Rourke also blamed Abbott for causing inflation to our food supply as well.
“You add to that this stunt that he pulled over the last two weeks on the U.S.- Mexico border which caused a spike in the increase for our cost of groceries for food in our grocery stores,” he said. “Do not take my word for it. Sid Miller, a statewide elected Republican Commissioner of Agriculture said the very same thing. On many of your programs and in many of your newspapers, Greg Abbott is causing inflation at the grocery store.”
O’Rourke then talked about legalizing marijuana and how that would generate some income for the state.
“On marijuana, I don’t know that there is an issue that more people in Texas agree on than that one,” he explained. “As you know, almost every state in the union has addressed this issue except for the state of Texas and in a country that incarcerates more people than any other country on the planet. We are the state that incarcerates more of our own than any other state and disproportionately those are Black and Brown Texans who are arrested for non-violent offenses, including possession of marijuana which is legal in most of the rest of the country. I know that our fellow Texans understand this. We also lose out on half a billion dollars in tax revenue if we were to tax the regulated and controlled sale of marijuana.”
O’Rourke said he has heard from fellow Texans supporting the legalization of marijuana after hearing from a veteran.
“We were in Fort Worth at the beginning of this campaign and after I addressed everyone who’d come out, a veteran who served our country in Vietnam came up to me and he said, ‘Beto, I can go to the VA in Dallas and they will prescribe me an opioid, no questions asked, to which I may become addicted and from which I may die. But if I want to use marijuana, which is the one way I’m able to deal with my post-traumatic stress disorder from my service to our country in Vietnam, somehow I am a criminal in the eyes of the law.’”
O’Rourke then gave his reasoning why legalizing marijuana might benefit the state.
“I want to make sure every veteran who has served this country, if that is the way in which they are going to be able to deal with their symptoms from service, that they are able to do that, they’re able to do that freely and without risk of being incarcerated in this state, this is something most Texans understand and will get behind. I want to ensure that we have more state revenue for property taxes.”
O’Rourke said he also wants to have Medicaid expansion so more people that cannot afford health insurance have some type of coverage that will help bring overall health care costs down.
“Right now, we spend a billion dollars a year locking people up for a substance that is legal in most of the rest of the country,” O’Rourke said. “Also, we are talking about Medicaid expansion. You think about that in terms of health care and health care relates to property taxes because it costs you.”