Considered to be one of the most conservative members of the Texas House, State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler) has gone from fighting against new taxes and fees to raising them.
Schaefer’s House Bill 2680, his first bill which he passed on Friday, would amend state law to allow the University of Texas at Tyler to increase fees on students to unlimited levels. That’s right, unlimited levels.
Under current law, virtually every fee and tax in the state has a cap preventing runaway local governments from imposing draconian fees on Texans—even if the taxpayers and/or rate payers approve the increase.
The University of Texas at Tyler is no different and is limited in what it can charge students in recreational facilities to $40 a semester. But Schaefer’s legislation would abolish that limit altogether.
His bill allows the university to increase the rate to the highest amount approved in a student general election, which is notoriously administration-friendly.
Now, it’s likely that the “only” real result of this bill is that the university will raise the fee to $60 or so a semester over the objections of already overburdened students.
Tuition and fees of Texas’ public universities have skyrocketed over the past three decades; accelerating after the legislature gave universities free reign over tuition in 2003.
Indeed, since 1990 news reports found that tuition and fees ballooned by more than 300 percent, after adjusting for inflation. On average, Texas college students paid just less than $1,000 a year in 1990, compared with more than $7,000 in 2016.
In that context, the additional $20 charge to every student is depressing but, relatively speaking, not the end of the world.
However, Schaefer’s decision to author, carry, and champion this legislation is still something taxpayers should take seriously.
Indeed, the Tyler lawmaker has not yet mustered the courage to vote in 2019 in the interest of taxpayers. He voted for a supplemental budget for the current biennium that spends hundreds of millions out of the state’s savings account. He voted for a budget for the next biennium that grows government by 16 percent—a budget that he’d already voted against in committee. And he voted for a proposal that spends three times as much on new education funding as property tax relief.
But he somehow managed to carry and pass a bill to allow a governmental entity in his district to increase the fees it charges to citizens and make that bill the first item of legislation he’s ever passed in the Texas House?
Most conservative activists likely remember Schaefer as the fighter who fought to strengthen the sanctuary cities bill, protect unborn Texans from abortion, and fight against the expansion of government. Indeed, it was that Schaefer who was named a “Taxpayer Champion” and endorsed for re-election by conservatives across the state.
But so far that Schaefer doesn’t appear to have made it to Austin yet this session. In his place is someone fighting for a lot of the things he once rightly fought against.