Update on House Bill 3899

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Colleen Pate
Posts: 129
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2023 1:22 pm

Update on House Bill 3899

Post by Colleen Pate »

Colleagues –

I want to update you on a significant development with House Bill 3899, which is the legislation aimed at killing Austin Light Rail.
House Bill 3899 was heard in the Senate Local Government Committee on Monday, and Chairman Paul Bettencourt has raised a new argument directly related to whether the mechanism being used to fund Austin Light Rail can be used. He has asked the Attorney General to issue an expedited opinion on the following questions:

1. In a tax-rate increase election held pursuant to Tex. Tax Code section 26.07, the ballot must include a description of the “purpose” of the increase. Does section 26.07 authorize a municipality to “earmark” use of a voter-approved increase in its Maintenance and Operation property tax revenue for purposes other than maintenance or operation, e.g., debt service?

2. If not, can such an increase in a municipality’s Maintenance and Operation property tax be transferred to a local government corporation (created pursuant to Tex. Trans. Code Chapter 431, Subchapter D) to be used for debt service on debt issued by the local government corporation?

The voters of Austin backed a bold, generational investment in our community in 2020 when they approved a property tax increase and dedicated the additional revenue to light rail. Austin followed state law to the letter. No one challenged the ballot or the election in court. This argument has never been raised (to my knowledge) until now.

We feel comfortable that we can use the voter-approved tax dollars as intended and are working to assure that the Attorney General has plenty of information and reference to precedent and law to make the correct decision.

An Attorney General Opinion is advisory and does not carry the force of law. The opinion is considered an interpretation of how a court might rule on a question of law, and the process typically takes up to six months to allow for legal briefing and review. We’re told this opinion, however, will be issued in a matter of days.

http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 105921.pdf

Thank you,

Kirk

On behalf of Mayor Watson
Chief of Staff, Mayor Watson's Office