Milam County Judge Frank Summers has an interesting editorial this week in the Cameron County Herald. While he expresses mixed feelings on revenue caps, he ultimately says he’ll support them if they apply to all levels of government, and that sounds good to us.
Governor Rick Perry has proposed a 5 percent revenue cap – that means when tax revenue increases by more than 5 percent, property tax rates would automatically be rolled back commensurately. This achieves a similar result as appraisal caps while avoiding disparities among property owners based on when they bought their home.
Although Summers doesn’t expressly make the point, an advantage of applying the revenue cap to state and local governments is that it would help prevent the state from shifting unfunded mandates on to counties. If this happened and counties couldn’t generate the extra revenue due to the caps, the political pressure would lead to a correction in policy, but shared revenue caps should discourage this in the first place.
There are variations on the 5 percent cap proposal – it could instead be inflation plus population growth, which is usually about the same. If a school district has enrollment growth that exceeds population, that number could be used instead. Many revenue cap systems also include provisions for emergencies and voter approval to exceed the cap.
The point isn’t to starve government, but it is reasonable to require that governments live within their means just like families. While local government leaders and the Texas Municipal League have strongly opposed revenue caps in the past, hopefully Judge Summers’ piece is a sign that an increasing number of these officials are coming around to a well-crafted proposal that evenly addresses all levels of government.
For Summers’ piece, see: https://www.cameronherald.com/articles/2008/07/31/news/opinion/column02.txt.