Tax propositions cause voter confusion

October 28, 2009 5:38:25 PM PDT
As Election Day draws nearer, there is still some confusion about three proposed constitutional amendments. Three of the 11 proposed amendments on November's ballot this cycle may have a direct impact on the taxes some homeowners have to pay.At early polling places across Houston, there are dozens of campaign signs, but not a single sign about the state's 11 proposed constitutional amendments.

"I had to read through them a couple of times before I could understand what they were," voter Valencia Scott said.

Celeste and Aristids Trifilios brought the newspaper with them to help figure out which propositions mean what.

"They are kind of confusing for the general public," she said. "I am going to check them here just to be sure."

That confusion about three propositions on this year's ballot has sparked particular debate since all of them deal with property taxes and how they are calculated.

Proposition 2 would prevent appraisers from valuing a primary home as anything other than residential, even if sits near commercial property valued much higher. Proposition 3 would make the appraisal rules the same in every county, and Proposition 5 would allow adjoining counties to combine appraisal boards.

"We need everybody to go out and vote for these propositions," said Vicki Fullerton, the president of the Houston Association of Realtors. "I sometimes think that we create problems by being to verbose instead of being plain spoken."

But there is opposition to the proposals. From a San Antonio Express News editorial: "What doesn't make sense is shielding property owners from fair-market appraisals because their property has a house sitting on it."

And an email circulating the state asks voters to vote no for Props 2 and 3 because they could create a statewide property tax.

State Sen. Tommy Williams helped author the propositions and told me earlier this month that is false.

"The state is still prohibited from collecting property tax," he said on Oct. 14. "So people don't have to worry about that. They don't have to worry about that at all."

If passed, Propositions 2 and 5 would become law on Jan. 1. Proposition 3 had no bill behind it, so essentially its passage would only give the legislature the ability to create a law.

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