It’s no secret that property taxes are out of control for many Texans, myself included. But what bothers me most is how local government officials and lobbyists are opposing new tax reforms that would empower citizens—and even worse, we have to pay them to work against us.

Last week, state lawmakers hosted a meeting at the capitol to hear citizens’ thoughts on new property tax legislation, Senate Bill 2. I have many conservative friends who wanted to go testify, but couldn’t afford to take time off from our businesses, school, and work.

Yet while we were working to provide for our families and to afford increasingly burdensome taxes, lobbyists who live off our dime went down to the capitol and filled the halls and hearing room to oppose tax reforms that would give us, the citizens, more control.

The legislation is pretty straightforward: if local government officials want to take more money from me and my neighbors, more than a 2.5 percent increase in one year, they would simply have to get our approval.

My neighbors and I already spend a tremendous amount of time trying to keep track of what our local officials are regularly doing—attending government meetings and keeping abreast of local issues could almost be a full-time job in itself. But it’s a slap in the face when we pay lobbyists or other government employees to go to the capitol and work against us.

And let’s not lose sight of the actual issue here: SB2 would simply require local governments to ask voters for permission to raise taxes above 2.5 percent. That’s it.

I’ve heard many lobbyists and government employees say that if this passes then police officers would have to be cut, or basic services will somehow suffer, but all of that is nonsense. A local government can still raise taxes as much as they want—they would just have to ask first. Why don’t politicians want voters and taxpayers to have a say on our own tax bills?

I’m thankful for State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, who is fighting for us and who was so well-prepared during the hearings. When some of these local government officials sat there and testified against SB2, Bettencourt had the data on hand to show them (and everyone watching) just how much they’ve raised property taxes. Some of the numbers were shocking.

The main point in all of this is that when local government officials keep taking more and more of our money year after year, that huge bill quickly becomes unaffordable—and we, the ones paying it, should have a say in that.

But for some reason, government lobbyists are opposing that. They’ve been working at the capitol to prevent us from having a vote on our own taxes.

Oh, and did I mention we pay them to do that?

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Ashley Whittenberger

Ashley is a mixed-media artist, native Texan, and local political activist in Dripping Springs.