Just a few days before the Texas Legislature is set to gavel in, State Rep.-elect Mayes Middleton has filed priority legislation, House Bill 281, to end tax-funded lobbying.
A long-standing practice in the halls of the Texas Capitol, tax-funded lobbying refers to cities, counties, and other local governments spending money to lobby the legislature, often against pro-taxpayer policies such as property tax relief and reform.
“Taxpayer-funded lobbyists are paid for by taxpayers, but they often advocate against taxpayers. Approximately $41 million was spent by local governments to hire lobbyists in 2017,” said Middleton. “However, the real cost is more than that; if taxpayer-funded lobbyists continue to be successful in killing property tax caps, taxpayers will be on the hook for an additional $8.7 billion in property taxes by 2024 according to a study by Governor Abbott. This practice must end.”
“We must act to ensure tax dollars are spent responsibly and not placed into the hands of big government Austin lobbyists,” he continued.
While legislation to end tax-funded lobbying has been filed in previous sessions, support for ending the practice has been growing in recent years. The Republican Party of Texas added it to its list of legislative priorities during its convention last June, and Gov. Greg Abbott has recently voiced his support for ending the practice after the City of Tyler made plans to spend $200,000 in the next session to lobby against property tax reform.
Considering the widespread political impact of this practice and the abject lack of transparency or accountability throughout, it is time for lawmakers to stand up and bring meaningful reform to this part of the legislative process.
Time will tell whether legislators will join with Abbott and the grassroots in ending tax-funded lobbying. The legislature is scheduled to convene on January 8.