By\u00a0Ross Ramsey\r\nIf you think about it, property taxes in Texas are a pretty sweet deal for the state government.\r\nOwners of homes and other properties don\u2019t like it so much, and neither do renters, who pay the tax invisibly through the owners of the properties they rent. Texans pay some of the highest property taxes in the U.S.\r\nThe state ranks sixth nationally in property taxes\u00a0paid as a percentage of owner-occupied housing value, according to the Tax Foundation. That organization ranks\u00a0Texas 13th among the states in property tax collections per capita. It also says\u00a0only three states rely more heavily on property taxes\u00a0than Texas, where 44% of all local and state tax collections come from property taxes.\r\nBut the state of Texas itself doesn\u2019t levy a property tax. Only school districts, counties, hospital districts, and local government entities can do that \u2014 and they often use those locally raised property tax dollars to cover holes left in their budgets by the state.\r\nIt has proven almost impossible to get meaningful property tax relief from the same state politicians who campaign on that issue every two years. Not only are they insulated from collecting property taxes, but the only way to lower property taxes is to either cut services and programs that Texans want, like public schools and public health or to raise other taxes themselves.\r\nMaking sympathetic noises about Texans\u2019 high property taxes while not actually doing anything meaningful to lower them is much easier \u2014 and, so far, has provided legislative and statewide incumbents with a powerful and perennial political issue that doesn\u2019t require them to do anything they\u2019d consider painful.\r\nIn the case of school district taxes, in particular, that means Texans pay higher property taxes because the state relies on school districts to lower its own bill for public education. It\u2019s baked into the state budget, as pointed out, most recently, by the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts.\r\n\u201cAn increase in property taxes is sometimes needed to keep the police and fire departments adequately funded, along with our schools, hospitals, and other vital services for our communities,\u201d TAAD wrote in a recent news release. \u201cThe State of Texas also benefits from property taxes to the tune of over $5.6 billion in a two-year budget cycle. That\u2019s 75% more than the state makes from the lottery.\u201d\r\nThat money is the difference between what the state spent on local schools and what it would have spent without increases in local property values. If you haven\u2019t been looking, those values are soaring, which has the effect of raising property tax bills and lowering what the state needs to send to your local school district for its share of the costs.\r\nThe state has more money to spend \u2014 $5.6 billion \u2014 as a direct result of higher property taxes. And state officials don\u2019t have to answer for it, really: They just say theirs is not the government collecting property taxes. They have cleverly outsourced that political liability \u2014 collecting a hated tax \u2014 to your local school board.\r\nSchools is the big one, but not the only case where what happens in Austin affects the size of your local property tax bill.\r\nFor years, the Legislature has\u00a0refused to expand Medicaid to cover more people or do much else to get the state out of its worst-place position when it comes to the number and rate of people without health insurance. Those 5.4 million people \u2014 that\u2019s a bigger population than 28 states \u2014 instead rely on uncompensated health care, when they get any health care at all. Who pays for uncompensated health care? County hospital systems and other patients. Those county systems are funded, in large measure, with property taxes.\r\nIt\u2019s a roundabout circuit, but it\u2019s safe to say there would be less pressure on your local property taxes if the state government would find a solution to the uninsured care problem. Other states have done it, with varying effects: All 49 of them have better results than we do when it comes to health insurance coverage.\r\nState officials in Texas like to say that they hate property taxes just as much as you do.\r\nMaybe.\r\nProperty taxes are levied by local officials, and state officials can complain about it without being blamed for the trouble taxpayers have with it. Texas doesn\u2019t have a personal income tax, a bragging point for everyone involved in economic development, and a relief for anyone with a personal income. The cost of that is higher-than-average sales and property taxes.\r\nThe state sets sales taxes, though changes in the rate are rare. And it more or less requires property taxes by requiring local governments to provide services and programs and to rely so heavily on those taxes to pay for the work. And state officials get a bonus: Their local counterparts get stuck with the blame.\r\nThis story was originally published by the Texas Tribune.