A ballot proposition intended to boost the South Texas economy by creating a property tax exemption for travel trailers has backfired and, instead, created a new statewide tax that has drawn fire from RV and campground organizations.
The legislative snafu prompted Gov. Rick Perry to write a letter to local officials asking them to consult with their attorneys about whether they should refrain from implementing “these unintentional changes” until the Legislature clarifies the issue during its next session, in 2003.
“We’re in the middle of a mess,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director of the Texas Association of Campground Operators (TACO).
In November, Texas voters approved Proposition 14, which called for an amendment to the state constitution that would allow the legislature to authorize taxing units, other than school districts, to grant tax exemptions to owners of registered, non-income-producing travel trailers, regardless of whether the trailers are real or personal property. Supporters believed the exemption would boost RV tourism in the Lower Rio Grande Valley counties of Hidalgo and Cameron, where RV tourism has declined 8% due to high property taxes.
However, Texas lawmakers inadvertently used wording that had the effect of making every travel trailer in the state subject to school taxes, prompting the ire of travel trailer owners across the state. “In reality, it ended up being a new tax,” said Cathie Carr, CEO of the Escapees RV Club, an association of full-time RVers.
The Escapees and other RV and campground groups have organized a letter writing campaign targeting the Texas governor, attorney general and other officials.
Schaeffer, the Texas campgrounds organization executive, believes a favorable opinion from the state attorney general could eliminate the need for new legislation. The governor also could “reverse the law,” or the legislature could repeal or amend the law, Schaeffer added.
However, not everyone in Texas is on the same page. There are opponents to the tax exemption for travel trailer owners because they feel it gives a break to “affluent retirees” at the expense of families living in nearby “substandard homes.” according to one commentator.