Should Travis County citizens be given more power to decide what to do with their own money? Their county judge says no.

On Wednesday, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt testified in opposition to property tax reform legislation currently being proposed at the Texas Legislature. The reform, filed as Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2, would grant citizens greater control over their own tax bills.

Here’s how the law would work: If a local government, like Eckhardt’s commissioners court, wanted to raise your taxes more than 2.5 percent in a year, they’d simply have to ask for your approval first.

That’s it.

According to Eckhardt, such an idea is “unworkable” and “really, really hampers” her and the commissioners court.

“If [the legislature] is going to cap us, you’re going to really, really hamper our ability to be flexible to respond to economic downturn, floods and wildfires, [or] fluctuation in the service demands on a daily basis,” Eckhardt told lawmakers. “If you give us only what we need, without any wiggle room, we will go entirely to what we need every single year in fear that the next year we will need a little bit more and won’t have access to it.”

Essentially, if Eckhardt doesn’t have free access to simply take more of citizens’ money without asking, the county will be in danger of not fully functioning.

The truth is, Eckhardt isn’t “capped” or hampered at all in her duties as a county judge. If the reform becomes law, she and the county commissioners can still raise taxes as much as they want—they would just have to ask first.

But that’s exactly the part they’re against.

In a county document recently presented to the commissioners, their staff wrote that the new reform—asking citizens first for more money—would “weaken local control by taking decision-making from locally elected officials.”

That’s correct. The reform would give more decision-making to the citizens, the ones actually footing the bill.

Ironically, when the commissioners recently passed a declaration against the reform, their document said asking citizens for their money will actually “diminish local accountability.” According to Eckhardt and the county commissioners, being more accountable to ask citizens for their money will diminish accountability.

It’s as backwards as it sounds.

Why is Eckhardt opposed to asking citizens for more of their money? Unfortunately, she’s not the only one. Scores of local officials across the state have testified against giving citizens more power over their taxes.

But as the Texas Legislature debates the new property tax reform, citizens can make sure their voice is heard by signing a petition below.

It’s their money at stake, after all.

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.

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