Houston council votes against mayor's tax rate request

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Houston's city council has voted against Mayor Turner's tax rate request. (KTRK)

Mayor Sylvester Turner and Controller Chris Brown sparred in an unusually public disagreement over a tax rate proposal by the mayor that would keep the city's rate the same but raise money over the city's revenue cap.

Turner's proposed rate was the same rate as last year's rate of 58.462 cents per $100 valuation.

Brown said the mayor had the authority to ask for that rate, but only if he invoked an emergency provision clause, allowing him to raise revenue's over the voter-approved cap for one year. Brown referred to a news conference Turner had with Governor Greg Abbott, where Turner said he wouldn't use the disaster declaration to raise taxes.

"I have a substantial problem with imposing more dilemma on these folks," said council member Dave Martin of Kingwood. ""And to invoke this on the peope I was voted to represent. I will not do that to these people. They are hurting. "

Turner's request Wednesday wasn't a tax increase, the mayor insisted, but instead, was keeping taxes where they were. Lowering taxes to be under the cap would send the wrong message to state and federal officials who the city is still asking for hundreds of millions in assistance, Turner said.

"I am not asking the tax rate to go one decibel higher," said Mayor Turner as he fought to keep rates the same. " I want the tax rate to remain as it has been for the last year. What we are doing is utilizing 7.8 million dollars due to Hurricane Harvey to maintain the current tax rate. "

Brown wouldn't certify the proposed rate unless the disaster provision was invoked and said that he couldn't get a straight answer from the mayor on the issue.

Council members expressed problems with the timing of the issue, just two days before the state deadline on action.

"This is bad optics," said council member Michael Kubosh. "Bad timing."

In a 15-2 vote against the mayor's wishes, the council approved an amendment by council member Mike Knox, lowering the rate to 58.421 cents per $100 valuation, putting the rate under the cap.

Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen joined the mayor in the no vote.

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