The controversy surrounding the Chapter 313 program continues as Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar proposes to limit the reports his office collects, reducing transparency for lawmakers and the general public.
Chapter 313, a provision of the state tax code that gives manufacturing and energy companies deep discounts on school property taxes, is set to expire at the end of 2022 but its consequences will continue to affect taxpayers for years to come.
Companies with active deals in early 2020 were projected to receive $10.8 billion over the 10-year life of their agreements. More than 76 percent of that cost was projected to come after 2019. The cost will increase as the comptroller continues to receive applications, as reported by the Texas Tribune.
“We know there’s going to be a flood of applications between now and the end of next year,” said Dick Lavine, senior fiscal analyst for the progressive nonprofit Every Texan. “What we know now is probably just the tip of the future iceberg. It’s going to be draining property tax revenue for years and years to come.”
Comptroller spokesman Chirs Bryan said the agency plans to stop producing a spreadsheet that was the only source of data, and will only collect investment, appraisal, and tax data from the prior two years.
These revisions would remove the companies’ tax breaks and deals’ future costs, leaving only reduced information on jobs and wages, which will only be submitted to the comptroller and school districts. However, the comptroller wishes the revisions be classified as confidential, forcing the public to a more tedious process when wanting to obtain information, relying solely on scores of districts when wanting to request records.
“That would make it very burdensome for people looking into the data — whether it’s researchers, legislative staff, think tanks — to see the impact of the program,” said Carine Martinez, research director of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.
According to Bryan, the information left after the changes would still exceed the minimum required by law and claimed the data they used to gather was no longer needed since the purpose was to “ evaluate the impact of legislative changes each session,” since Chapter 313 will expire soon, there is no need to evaluate this impact anymore.