Texas taxpayers are literally forced to fund their own political opposition in the state Legislature. Each legislative session, local governments spend millions of tax dollars on professional lobbyists to push policies in Austin that hurt citizens.

With a new session starting January 10, grassroots activists are ready to put an end to taxpayer-funded lobbying.

“We can get this done,” says Tim Hardin, president of pro-taxpayer group Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. “But it’s completely dependent on grassroots pressure.”

Banning taxpayer-funded lobbying is one of TFR’s policy goals for the 2023 legislative session and part of their Texas Prosperity Plan.

TFR calls taxpayer-funded lobbying “innately corrupt and immoral” and “a major conflict of interest for taxpayers.”

“They are effectively hiring out the job we elected them to do in the first place,” Hardin said. “Our local officials are supposed to be elected to advocate for us.”

Instead, school districts, cities, and counties spend tax dollars intended for core services on lobbyists, who influence lawmakers to increase local governments’ ability to tax and regulate citizens—using taxpayers’ own money against them.

According to the free-market think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas local governments spent as much as $75 million in 2021 hiring lobbyists to promote government causes.

“Governments are spending lots of your tax dollars to lobby for more of your tax dollars,” said TPPF Policy Director James Quintero.

TPPF also backs banning the practice, which gives governments an unfair advantage over citizens, at taxpayers’ expense.

Hardin says he is “cautiously optimistic” lawmakers will end taxpayer-funded lobbying this session.

“I think it has a real chance,” he told Texas Scorecard, adding that legislation has already been filed.

Lawmakers killed attempts to end taxpayer-funded lobbying in 2019 and again in 2021, even though the issue was a Texas GOP priority both years.

Spending local tax dollars on Austin lobbyists is wildly unpopular with Texas voters.

Yet local government officials and their powerful lobby groups, like the Texas Municipal League and Texas Association of School Boards, have successfully pressured lawmakers to keep the lucrative practice alive.

“Taxpayer-funded lobbying doesn’t just enable big government,” Quintero said. “It also interferes with citizens’ constitutional right to petition government for a redress of grievances. After all, every minute a policymaker spends listening to taxpayer-funded lobbyists is a minute not spent with constituents.”

Texans can find contact information for their elected representatives here.

Soli Rice contributed to this report.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.