Home building

Texas Republicans want to use billions in federal pandemic relief to send checks to homeowners just ahead of next year’s November elections — and call it property tax relief.

The bill originally came over from the Senate as a straight-up tax cut bill. House lawmakers gutted the Senate proposal to use it as a vehicle for the $3 billion in checks for homeowners. Now, lawmakers in both chambers will have to work out a compromise.

Republicans argued that renters have already been taken care of because Texas has already received $2 billion in federal stimulus money for rent relief, state Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, said.

Republicans tried to head off criticism that the checks would be politically timed.

A homeowner whose property is worth $300,000, the median value of a Texas home, would see $200 in temporary tax relief under the Senate proposal — though that could grow depending on how much the Texas economy grows by next June.

Patrick, meanwhile, called legislation cutting property taxes his top priority for this special session, which has a packed agenda that includes figuring out how to spend $16 billion in federal coronavirus relief dollars and redrawing the state’s political maps.