Internet rumor again misleads Texans on property tax exempton

Sometimes there really is nothing else to do except quote the often-quoted Mark Twain statement that “nothing is easier to kill than the truth, but a lie well told is immortal.”

On April 23, 2009, in this space, The Reporter noted it had been asked about a crazy Internet rumor which told Texans we had to vote for a “constitutional amendment in the spring or lose the 65-and-above tax exemption.”

We noted the obvious; constitutional amendments are never on ballots for municipal-school or primary elections. Those yes-or-no questions at the end of your Republican and Democratic Primary ballots have no legislative force, they are asking party members for their opinions on political and policy questions.

Actual state constitutional amendments would be on November general election ballots.

Where did this long-lived e-mail rumor originate? Here’s the background. It was written in 2007 in support of an actual constitutional amendment on the ballot that year—No. 3, to be exact—designed to cap increases in homestead appraisals—not actual taxes.

Somehow the author managed to garble that together with 2005 legislative action which actually cut taxes and come to the conclusion that if the 2007 vote failed the over-65 tax exemption would go away.

That was never true, of course, and the 2007 appraisal cap, Amendment No. 3, passed handily, 71 to 29 percent.

End of story, right? Except the same e-mail went around in 2009, claiming the same thing. One we got actually said the legislature “forgot about the over-65 exemption.”

Yeah, right. How many politicians are going to forget about a group as large, well-organized and politically active as senior citizens?

In 2009, The Reporter’s editorial ended with a prediction: “This same e-mail will be back warning us of a constitutional amendment to preserve the homestead tax exemption in May, 2010.”

We missed it by two years.—M.B.

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