Big-government interest groups seeking to maintain power are desperately clinging to hyperbole. The Texas Conference of Urban Counties (CUC) is urging county officials to oppose tax limits they laughably characterize as, “A Clear and Present Danger.” Despite paying lip-service to “lower taxes” on their website, the CUC’s real objective is to lobby legislators on behalf of county politicians, not Texans.
The contention over improved tax limits has centered on State Sen. Bettencourt’s SB 182, which would lower municipal and county property tax burdens (from 8% down to 4%), without obtaining voter approval. Local governments could still break the tax cap, but only with voter consent.
The CUC arrogantly claims limiting taxes would threaten the Texas miracle. They assert, “local governments drive economic growth.” Is it any wonder why government would claim that limiting tax burdens is actually bad for the economy?
Texans know better.
If the CUC’s assertions were true, the massive growth of government would have proportional economic benefits. It doesn’t, however, and primarily for one reason—government is fed by the economy itself. If its parasitic burden is allowed to grow too quickly, it will stifle the economy. At any given time, the larger the government-sector becomes, the less that’s left in private hands for productive investment, savings and consumption.
Government expenditures are, at best, a zero-sum game. This fact does not dismiss the utility of public services altogether, rather, it reinforces the fact that robust economic prosperity requires a government sector that’s limited.
Interestingly, the proposed limits don’t actually cut revenue for counties as the CUC claims—they simply limit their growth. Limits are the mechanism that force politicians to prioritize the public services most needed by the community. This actually incentivizes improved public services, and at a lower cost.
The CUC’s most inaccurate claim is that county tax burdens are not growing. But according to the Texas State Comptroller of Public Accounts, between 1992 and 2010 total county property tax revenue grew 88% faster than the combined rate of population growth plus inflation. In other words, the revenue counties collected on a per person basis nearly doubled over that period, after adjusting for inflation.
Simply put, CUC’s claim is false.
It should come as no surprise that politicians would oppose limits on their own authority, despite the fact that doing so would clearly benefit Texas taxpayers facing increases in county tax burdens.
In fact, counties are the worst offender. Although the CUC and TML like to throw school districts “under the bus,” county tax burdens have actually grown at a much faster rate than both ISDs and cities.
It raises the question, who is threatened by limiting the taxing power of politicians—Texans or the politicians themselves? Although our “public servants” revel in the benevolent name, very few govern as such.
The CUC’s propaganda serves as yet another compelling reason why more taxpayer advocates are needed at the local level to combat their false narrative. It’s clear that the only “present danger” threatening the Texas miracle are the CUC, TML and other taxpayer-funded pro-government lobby groups opposing pro-taxpayer reforms.