Republicans seeking to make substantive policy reforms face as their chief obstacle, all too often, Republican elected officials. These “Republicans” like to say they believe in fiscal restraint and local control – just not when it stands in the way of spending your money. The only restraint they favor tends to be in the form of keeping taxpayers from interfering with spending increases. This makes something of an inconvenience of the 92% of Republican voters who supported a ballot question calling for strict spending limits.

I was speaking in Denton County last week about the important tax and spending reforms Texas’ conservatives are demanding – such as eliminating the gross margins tax on business, reforming the property tax system, and, eventually, restraining the growth of all government to population and inflation. No sooner had I finished my remarks than one of the 8-percenters, one of those few “Republicans” who oppose spending limits and taxpayer protection, spoke out.

Sadly, it was the Denton County Judge, Mary Horn — a Republican. Speaking from the anti-taxpayer script, Judge Horn first said folks who vote for spending limits just don’t understand how expensive government is. This is the same Judge Horn who increased Denton County’s budget by 13.72% in 2008 compared to 2007.

(Actually, the taxpayers do understand how expensive government is – which is why they support limiting the unrestrained growth of government.)

Then she launched into the predictable public safety argument, claiming a spending limit would force her to cut law enforcement. So there we have Mary Horn’s priorities: the first to go is law enforcement, not the County’s “crisis counseling” projects or government health care programs. Not her own car allowance and or other line-items.

Would she really cut monies for law enforcement first? Of course not… but it’s what liberals, um, big-spenders, always do: try to scare taxpayers into submission. “We’ll abolish the police and jails,” they cry.

In reality, when times are tight, priorities must be set and choices made. Spending limits simply demand tough decisions, rather than political expediency. No politician likes to make choices in spending priorities, which is why government grows so fast — they pay for everything!

Next, Horn said she opposes spending limitations because she favors local control. Right… All spending limits give voters the right to exceed the limit when they determine it’s necessary. But you see, she doesn’t like that kind of local control. She doesn’t want to have to ask mere taxpayers for permission to raise the cost of government.

Horn said she likes the current system (no surprise), one that forces taxpayers to organize expensive, self-funded petition drives on the hopes of getting a roll-back election on the ballot. But only if they are lucky enough to avoid the multitude of legal traps in the petition process.

Once the ballot position is secured, those taxpayers have to fund a campaign to “vote yes” on the roll-back… And their campaign is often opposed with their own money by “public servants” working on the taxpayer dime.

Now let’s be clear: county taxes are not a big problem. They are in fact, the least of our state’s “property tax burden” problem. If you live in Denton County, for example, county taxes represent about 10 percent of your total property tax burden. And Denton County is one of the lowest taxing among the state’s heavily populated counties. With that said, Denton County homeowners’ property tax burden continues to skyrocket because of an unreformed appraisal system.

(By the way, Judge Horn says that’s fine, too. During her comments she said the government should benefit every year from appraisal increases because the property owner will benefit if they sell the property. That property isn’t a liquid asset seems to have not occurred to her. So how’s that for sticking it to the taxpayer?)

Of course, the real problem isn’t the tax burden; it’s the attitude of some elected officials, like Mary Horn, who just don’t understand why taxpayers aren’t impressed by the increasingly heavy burden of constantly growing government.

But 92% of the Republican voters in Denton County want to restrict Mary Horn’s power to grow government, so she’s going to have to come to terms with the will of the people — with true local control. Judge Horn, and the other 8-percenters, must start governing with our principles, or find themselves not governing at all.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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