Despite the narrative advanced by many politicians, Texas’ local governments have an enormous spending problem. In total, over the last twenty years, local spending growth has increased nearly twice as fast as the combined rate of population growth and inflation. The government burden for each Texan is growing.
Not all local governments are run amok, but interestingly, the latest efforts to require voter-consent for tax increases are unanimously met with opposition. It raises the question: for those local politicians who are governing responsibly, why fear greater citizen-scrutiny?
In addition to overall spending, Texas has the second highest local debt per person in the United States. Unsurprisingly, politicians interested in preserving their own power meet every single pro-taxpayer reform with vicious opposition, all in the name of “local control.”
But local control is simply a governing preference—liberty, however, is a governing principle. After all, unlimited government at any level undermines liberty.
Cities and counties blame runaway school districts for the debt epidemic. School districts blame the legislature for a “lack of funding”, even though per student, inflation adjusted education spending continues to increase.
Governments use taxpayer money to lobby the legislature and influence colleagues to block pro-taxpayer reforms. For city politicians, it’s the Texas Municipal League (TML). Counties organize through the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) and the Conference of Urban Counties (CUC). All oppose any limit on local taxing power.
The CUC arrogantly attributes the Texas Miracle to government spending, not the people of Texas. They ludicrously characterize tax limits as “A Clear and Present Danger!”
Government-schools have the corporate co-opt, the Fast Growth School Coalition (FGSC) and the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), while every public employee class has their own group (i.e. TASA, TASBO).
The education lobby openly opposes debt transparency reforms such as ballot disclosure, auditing requirements and basic accountability standards that would encourage greater efficiency and prudence with existing funds.
Aside from government-associations, politicians also use taxpayer money to hire lobbyists directly for the same nefarious anti-taxpayer purposes. Meanwhile, Texas families and their businesses are left hanging out to dry with no well-funded, organized group to advocate in their best interest.
Those living inside the Austin bubble are perfectly aware of this government-centered reality, whether it’s Capitol Reporters, legislators, their staff, or even the lobbyists themselves. The only Texans left out of the loop are those living and working across the Lone Star State who actually shoulder the tax burden and quite literally, carry the economy on their back.
Texas’ local governments have a spending problem, not a revenue shortage. But the only way pro-taxpayer reforms will pass is if citizens actively engage their elected officials at every level and let them know that what happens in Austin, no longer stays in Austin.
Politicians won’t be effective servants, if they fail to hear from their masters.