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Texas Republicans clash over property tax relief, showing rift between governor, lieutenant governor

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott sit next to each other at a table. Both sit with their hands folded on the table.
Gabriel C. Pérez
KUT News
Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have typically been on the same side when it comes to policy, but disagreements on how to handle property tax cuts has revealed some daylight between the two.

During their over two term tenure as the top elected officials in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have maintained a wary alliance.

But a recent disagreement about how to cut property taxes would appear to undermine the carefully crafted image that GOP leaders are on the same page when it comes to some of the most important issues facing the state, according to John Moritz.

Moritz covers the Texas capitol for the USA Today Network, and he said the state’s top three Republican lawmakers are in a standoff.

“Right now it’s kind of a three-way standoff between the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker,” he said. “The governor’s more aligned with the speaker on this particular issue, and that’s one of the rare occasions where he’s allowing some daylight to come between him and the lieutenant governor, as they both really want to court that same conservative Republican base. It’s always been assumed that Dan Patrick has the tighter grip on it, and the governor has not really wanted to be outside that conservative loop.”

Moritz said historically Dan Patrick has courted the Trump wing of the Republican party while Greg Abbott has worked to maintain a little more distance while still staying popular with that same base. House Speaker Dade Phelan, on the other hand, is more moderate.

“The speaker has been called a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by the former president,” Moritz said. “Because he serves at the pleasure of the House membership, he’s got to be more accommodating to the wide array of political leanings that make up the Texas House.”

Moritz said some at the Capitol criticized the governor for prioritizing property tax cuts without laying out any specifics.

“(Abbott) made it clear he wanted the property tax cut, but he never really got into the weeds with the details along the way,” he said. “As the special session opened on Tuesday, he finally said, ‘okay, I’m with the House.’ And I think that kind of took a lot of people by surprise, may have even taken the lieutenant governor about by surprise, seeing as how they are typically aligned on policy.”

Patrick fired back at the governor on Twitter, telling him to stick to his job of calling the special session and let the lawmakers write the bills.

Moritz said it is still too early to say how — or whether — this rift will impact the Texas GOP or the average Texas resident.

“On the one hand, the Democrats say, ‘okay, the Republicans have been in power so long that they’re now starting to fight with themselves and people can see it,’” Moritz said. “On the Republican side, they are saying, ‘disagreements are not uncommon in politics.’ They may be in the heat of the moment now, but everybody gets on the same page eventually and it’s to their advantage that they do. People just want to know that their taxes are going to be cut. And if they see a reduction, they kind of forget about this, all that stuff that we’re in the middle of right now.”

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