AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott laid out new senior-focused policies unveiling his Compact with Seniors at a campaign event Thursday.
As part of the compact, Abbott promised to further reduce property taxes for seniors older than 65 and eliminate elder abuse. He made the announcement in Sun City, the largest active adult community in the state located just north of Austin.
“Texas would not be the place of freedom, hope and opportunity that it is today without the seniors across our state,” Abbott said. “I am running for re-election as your governor because I believe Texas can and must do more to support and protect our seniors.”
In Texas, homeowners 64 and older can apply for a homestead exemption which helps reduce the overall property taxes they pay.
Current exemptions allow seniors to qualify for an additional $10,000 homestead exemption for school district taxes on top of the $25,000 homestead exemption available to all homeowners.
But homeowners have to apply for it in order to receive the benefit. Abbott said under the compact, he wants to automatically enroll all senior homeowners into the exemption so they do not have to do anything themselves.
“The fact is too many seniors either don't know about it, or they don't know how to go about the process of applying for it,” he said. “We want to fix all that.”
He added that he also wants to expand property tax freezes for those 65 and older to include county taxes. Currently, freezes are only applied for school district taxes.
Abbott also said he would address elder abuse.
Up to five million older Americans are abused every year, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion, according to the National Council on Aging.
Abbott said under the compact, he will work to increase penalties for crimes committed against seniors including violent crimes, scams and schemes.
He added that he will give the Texas Attorney General “the authority to pursue and prosecute criminals who prey on seniors in Texas.”
“There is a rise in elder abuse, whether it's physical or financial, and that is unacceptable,” Abbott said. “We will not allow elder abuse to occur in Texas, period.”
Abbott announced he is running for a third term as governor on Jan. 8. He faces a packed primary against seven other candidates including Allen West, a former state representative and former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. West is one of Abbott’s leading opponents.
West said, when it comes to addressing taxes, he is in favor ending all property taxes in the state. He said he would do so by reducing the size of the state government and using the savings to cover the costs that taxes previously paid for.
“The real goal is that we have to transition away from property taxes to a better system, a better way of taxation,” he said on his website.
Primary Election Day is March 1 with early voting beginning Feb. 14. The last day to register to vote is Jan. 31.