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Democratic mayoral candidate backs GOP tax relief bill

By Kenric Ward

San Antonio mayoral candidate and Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina supports Republican-backed legislation to lower local property taxes.

“We have a rogue appraisal district that needs to be reined in,” Medina said, dropping a political bomb on City Hall and the county tax office – all controlled by Democrats.

Medina attacks rising property taxes by supporting enactment of Senate Bill 2, which would halve the 8 percent annual rollback rate. Cities wanting to raise revenues above 4 percent would be required to win voter approval at the polls.

“That’s fiscally responsible. We have too many six-figure salaries at City Hall and too many pet projects,” Medina told the southside Mission Democrats club on Thursday night.

Going further, the mayoral hopeful wants the city to reduce tax rates to compensate for annual increases in appraised values.

Noting that property tax-driven revenues have increased nearly 30 percent over three years, Medina asked the gathering: “Did you get a 30 percent pay raise over that period?”

Medina called his rivals — Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Councilman Ron Nirenberg — “disingenuous” for claiming that the city has not raised taxes.

“We need to limit the growth of revenue,” he said. “We need a cap.”

City spokeswoman Thea Setterbo said, “The city opposes legislation that would impose a stricter revenue cap, which would limit the city’s ability to meet the needs of its rapidly growing population.”

San Antonio, which does not offer a homestead exemption, has not increased its tax rate in 24 years, and has lowered it seven times during that period, she said.

“SB 2 does not provide meaningful property tax relief because it does not address school property taxes, which make up more than 50 percent of tax bills, and it does not reduce rising appraisals, which are driving increased property tax rates,” Setterbo said in an email to Watchdog.org.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt, sponsor of SB 2, sparred with San Antonio officials during a legislative hearing on property tax reform last year. “They were the worst of anyone at those hearings,” he recalled. “They openly fought the whole concept of rising tax bills.”

“Taxpayers will welcome anyone recognizing the obvious – that tax bills are going through the roof,” the Houston Republican said.

Chief county tax appraiser Mike Amezquita declined to comment for this article.

San Antonio, like other cities, and the Texas Municipal League are lobbying against SB 2. Such activism has legislators considering a ban on lobbying at taxpayer expense.

Meantime, public resentment is rising over tax bills, which one county assessor likens to a “noose around taxpayers’ necks.”


Medina’s populist message – almost Trumpian – puts him to the right of Taylor and Nirenberg on the property tax issue. That pivot is boosting the appeal of the “proud progressive Democrat” among beleaguered businesses and homeowners who have no other fiscally conservative choices in the May mayoral race, a nonpartisan contest.

Medina said he has been “endorsed by the tea party.” When pressed for details by Watchdog, he said, “We’ll be rolling that out in the next few weeks.”

The San Antonio Tea Party has made no endorsements in the city election, but local tea party activist George Rodriguez, a member of the national Tea Party Patriots, and Medina have met to discuss common ground on taxing and spending issues.

“He’s actually the conservative in this race,” Rodriguez told Watchdog. ”What other choice do we have?”

This article originally appeared at Watchdog.org.

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