Kudos to Gov. Rick Perry for an unheralded veto that saved one of Texas' few local taxpayer protections. He stopped legislation that would not only have allowed unchecked tax increases, but would have effectively disenfranchised Texas' voting taxpayers. The Legislature, city councils, school districts and county commissioners just wanted taxpayers to shut-up… and pay-up.
During the Session, House and Senate members passed legislation to severely restrict taxpayers and voters from petitioning local government for rollback elections.
Legislators, apparently representing localÂ government and not voters, tried to gut the one small taxpayer protection existing in law.
Under Section 26 of the Tax Code, citizens can petition local government to rollback taxes when they exceed an 8% increase. But under HB2087, if two rollback elections are unsuccessful, no rollback election could take place for 3 years! Their justification? Democracy is expensive, and we just cannot afford to keep going to the voters. Nothing like trampling taxpayer protections in the name of austerity.
Who was behind this assault on basic state constitutional rights? Leading the charge against taxpayers was none other than Republican State Rep. Fred Hill of Richardson. (Yes, he really is that bad.) Here's a guy whose definition of "local control" manages to include disenfranchising local voters! Simply amazing.
Of course, nothing is quite so ironic as trampling taxpayer protections in the name of illusionary budget restraint. Something about penny-wise, pound-foolish would seem to apply…
Hill and his cronies took the view that if voters don't go along with a rollback once, then they may as well go ahead lose the right to voice concern on rollbacks in the future. That's despite the fact that every rollback question addresses different issues — if for no other reason than that each rollback effort is held in a different budget year.
On its face, this is bad legislation, so of course it passed the House with 15 Republicans joining with most of the Democrats. In the Senate, taxpayers fared even worse; all them voted for it – unanimously. Even the alleged taxpayer defenders. All of them.
Remember, we are talking about an existing limitation that is already overly generous, as 8 percent is far greater than the growth in population plus inflation, which would generally be 4 percent a year.Â Given the requirement that 10 percent of the voters in the last election sign a rollback petition, which requires very significant effort and expense by aggrieved taxpayers, there is already a mechanism in place to ensure that such elections do not occur without substantial community support.Â But even the current minimal protection for taxpayers is too much for Fred Hill and his big government allies to stomach.
Chiseling away at voter participation and ballot suppression shouldn't surprise us. These are the same lawmakers who would just love to make that logic apply to their own elections; if they win once, they shouldn't be opposed in the future. If we voters are dumb enough to elect these clowns in the first place, then we should just be stuck with them. Sounds reasonable, right? Hardly. Unlike wine, lawmakers really improve with age.
All of us pesky taxpayers should be sure to cast the ballots we have, while we can, starting, say, in the March primaries.