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By Jack Cross
Nineteen seconds
-that’s how long it took the Texas House of Representatives
to consider and pass, sight unseen, a measure that
has helped companies shave billions of dollars’ worth of
property value from the tax rolls, even as ordinary homeowners
saw their valuations grow and grow.
The statute, which slipped into the tax code in 1997
with no public scrutiny, debate or even notice was the
handiwork of Austin tax attorney Jim Popp, whose firm
primarily represents commercial and industrial property
owners that has included Valero and Marathon.
Equity appeals ignore actual market values — a radical
departure from accepted appraisal practice. In 20 years,
no other state has adopted such a system. The result of
the equity clause is a shift in tax responsibility away from
thousands of big corporations to homeowners and small
businesses. This tax loophole hurts cities and does great
harm to school districts.
Since its enactment, the number of lawsuits has snowballed,
Cads are forced to settle because it’s like fighting
in a ring with no ropes. Valero is among the most notorious
filing lawsuit year after year.
In Jefferson County, local schools and governments
had to pay Valero Energy — one of many large clients
represented by Popp’s law firm — $24 million to settle an
equity lawsuit protesting the value of its refinery in Port
In Texas City, Valero Energy Corp is using the legal
loophole that is forcing the city, school district, College of
the Mainland and the county to refund about $15 million
in tax revenue. In addition, TCISD has sent over a $100
million dollar to the state recapture or the so-called Robin
Other industry is not going to sit on the sideline for long
if your competition is getting reductions and that is exactly
what is happening. Last year the CAD was forced
to settle with Marathon Galveston Bay Refinery for $710
million value, down from 1.8 billion when BP owed the
same refinery in 2009. The reduction came in spite of the
fact that the GBR is now the second largest refinery in the
county having absorbed the $240 million smaller Marathon
refinery and is about halfway through a $2 billiondollar
February 1, 2018 Marathon Petroleum Corp. announced
profits of $3.43 billion Marathon got a $1.5 billion
4th quarter windfall from the trump tax cut. Valero,
the nation’s largest independent refiner announced this
month that its Operating revenue rose 27.4 percent to
$26.39 billion. Valero had a $1.9 billion-dollar profit surge
due to the tax reforms.
The people of Texas City love our refineries, they give
a lot to the community, but they are hurting the school
districts and need to pay their fair share. Homeowners
are stretched to the limit and sure don’t need more tax
responsibility shifted to them. State lawmakers need to
decide if fixing the tax code and relieving homeowners
and small business of some of this high tax pain is more
important than yielding to a high power special interest

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