AUSTIN — As the electric vehicle company Tesla considers moving from California and building a massive “gigafactory” in southeast Austin, corporate executive Rohan Patel spoke to the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday about what their potential relocation could mean for local citizens.

“Compared to most other states, you’ve got high property taxes in Texas sometimes presenting barriers to large investments,” Patel said. “That’s especially true for businesses like Tesla with extremely high machinery and equipment costs.”

For context, Patel was before the commissioners to discuss a controversial potential deal in which Tesla would receive special tax abatements from the county. Numerous citizens testified about the proposal, with many against it.

During the deal discussion, though, Patel observed an important and accurate fact worth zooming in on about current life for locals and those across the state: property taxes in Texas are suffocating citizens and businesses.

In 2020, Texans pay the third-highest property taxes in the nation behind only Illinois and New Jersey; locally, Austin and Travis County governments charge citizens debilitating tax bills as well.

The Austin City Council, run entirely by Democrats, is now taking 100 percent more cash annually from the median homeowner than just 12 years ago. In 2008 the median tax bill was $705. Now it’s over $1,400, and council members are saying they want to continue raising it.

Travis County, also run by Democrats, is charging the average homeowner roughly $400 more annually compared to 11 years ago.

The Austin City Council also wastes and spends a ton—roughly double per citizen compared to cities such as Dallas or Houston.

The consequences for citizens? A report by the United Way revealed an astonishing 42 percent of Austin families are now struggling to make ends meet, and raising a family of four in Travis County costs a whopping $13,000 more than the statewide average.

Indeed, local Democrat officials have created a monstrous, money-eating machine that has wreaked havoc on working citizens and disabled them from reaching prosperity. Instead of having more of their hard-earned cash to save, afford a better place to live, obtain an education, or provide for their families, citizens are constantly straining to just keep up with Democrat officials’ ever-increasing tax bills.

And the Democrat officials’ heavy property taxes hurt every local citizen everywhere—local businesses have to raise prices to afford the skyrocketing bills, apartments have to raise rents, grocery stores have to upcharge the food, and restaurants have to charge more for a hamburger and fries.

With all that said, the current Tesla situation appears to be even worse. As Democrat-run local governments are the ones who’ve largely created an affordability crisis from plundering citizens’ cash, the officials are now trying to “play nice” and attract Tesla with exclusive perks and favors at local taxpayers’ expense.

Travis County is considering giving Tesla $14.65 million in tax rebates over 10 years, while Del Valle ISD, the school district where the factory would be located, is discussing giving Tesla up to $50 million in property taxes over the next decade.

And though Tesla isn’t asking for direct cash handouts from Austin’s city officials, their attorney said Tesla wants assurances of a “smooth permitting process,” a phrase often used to mean shortcutting through the taxing maze of government building regulations that normally bog down local businesses.

So while normal citizens have to pay full taxes and play by all the expensive rules, local government officials are not only discussing giving Tesla the golden child treatment but using working citizens’ tax money to do it.

Even worse, the local officials’ potential deal is not only corrupt but laughably unnecessary in order to bring Tesla to town. To Tesla, whose revenue last year was $24 billion, getting a $64 million boost spread out over a decade is like getting a $13 bonus per year on your $50,000 salary.

Numerous citizens testified against the deals at both the Travis County and Del Valle school board meetings this week, with one saying to “hand over millions” to the multibillion-dollar corporate behemoth is “simply ridiculous.”

The bottom line? Local government officials are hindering prosperity for all when they plunder working citizens’ wallets and needlessly transfer that money to hand-picked favorites.

Instead of picking winners and losers, officials could try giving all citizens a favorable playing field, lowering costs for everyone, and letting them keep more of what they earn.

Both local government entities are continuing to consider their deals, and Travis County may vote on theirs as soon as next week.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.