Thanks to the Texas Legislature, Texans are now faced with a new attempt to finance Kelo-style property takings in their local communities. Proposition 4 is a major step back in the fight for property protections and should be voted down this November.
Proposition 4 will be up for a vote along with nine other proposed amendments to the state constitution on November 8th. Here’s how it will appear on the ballot:
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit a county to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area and to pledge for repayment of the bonds or notes increases in ad valorem taxes imposed by the county on property in the area. The amendment does not provide authority for increasing ad valorem tax rates.”
That technical jargon will allow counties to finance the same Kelo-style eminent domain power cities have been using. Under the proposition, counties would have the ability to issue bonds to develop or redevelop land they think is “unproductive” or blighted. Once the land is redeveloped, the land is then sold off to private interests. The increase in property tax revenue is then used to pay off the debt on the outstanding bonds.
There’s nothing wrong with having distaste for “blighted” or under-utilized land. It’s typically a poor reflection of a local neighborhood or community. But such governmental power should be reduced, not expanded. It is not the proper role of government, no matter what level, to seize private land in the interest of increasing tax revenues.
Those kinds of improvements are best made by the private sector, which is better prepared to shoulder the risk of such an investment. As it stands now, taxpayers are the ones on the hook if these “redevelopment zones” don’t produce enough tax revenue to cover the bonded debt.
With the near Republican super-majority this session, one would think such bad policy would never have come to fruition. Regrettably, they instituted only partial property protections — hardly worthy of the pats on the back they’ll likely give each other during this next campaign cycle.
In the long-term, voters can reverse this trend by electing conservatives who are willing to implement true reforms to the system, not just the ones who pay it lip-service.
In the short-term, voters should reject Proposition 4 at the ballot box this November.