Over the past decade, local debt in Texas has grown nearly twice as fast as the state’s economy, and property taxes have skyrocketed as a result.

Today, the Lone Star State is second only to California in regards to local debt per capita, with more than $12,000 owed by every man, woman, and child, according to the Texas Bond Review Board.

The local debt problem is made worse by local governments who write bond proposals in nebulous and confusing ways that make them hard for voters to understand, all while resisting taxpayer-friendly reforms.

At the Republican Party of Texas platform language was approved that empowers citizens to make better and more informed decisions on bond proposals:

“State and local bond election ballots should be required to include the amount of debt currently outstanding, current debt service payments, current per capita debt obligations, the amount of new debt being proposed, estimated debt service for the new debt, and estimated per capita burden being proposed…”

Lawmakers should also require that unrelated, large-scale projects be split into separate ballot propositions to improve transparency and accountability to voters. Far too often, football stadiums, athletic complexes and iPads are lumped into the same proposition as new schools and security equipment, requiring voters to make an all-or-nothing decision.

A number of conservative lawmakers are leading the fight to deliver these reforms, but in their path stand those responsible for the confusing ballots and incredible debts in the first place—local governments and their lobbying organizations such as Texas Municipal League, Texas Association of Counties, and Texas Association of School Boards.

These organizations aggressively defend government from their own citizens, and are strongly opposed to any reforms that increase ballot transparency and disclosure. The governments and other tax-funded entities they represent don’t want greater transparency or accountability—they want voters left in the dark. After all, inviting public scrutiny doesn’t advance their agenda to spend, tax, and borrow more taxpayer money.

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