For decades, Texans have complained to their legislators about nonstop increases in property taxes. And for decades, they’ve been promised action. Yet when the tax bill arrives in the mail, the amount due each year climbs sharply.
Until we stop taxpayer-funded lobbying, that vicious cycle will continue unabated.
When legislative committees hold hearings on property taxes, there are dozens of lobbyists on the public payroll in the audience. Their rhetoric varies from session to session, but their goal is the same: increasing taxes and spending for local governments. School districts, counties, cities, special districts and associations of local governments hire them. They have a lot of experience working with state lawmakers and often have public relations teams and polling data at their disposal. Some also make campaign contributions, even though they are funded from the public purse.
Meanwhile, homeowners are working to feed their families and pay the taxes. To attend committee hearings, taxpayers have to take time off from work and travel at their own expense. Similarly, small-business owners, who often see double-digit percentage increases year after year, often can’t afford to hire another employee for their business, much less a lobbyist. Banning taxpayer-funded lobbying would level the playing field and ensure the taxpayers don’t pay to have their taxes increased.
Some in local government claim that the controversy over taxpayer-funded lobbying is an effort to silence government officials. Nothing could be further from the truth.
State agencies have been prohibited from lobbying for decades, yet no one complains that state employees are silenced. On their own time, using their own resources, they can contact their legislators or join associations that lobby the Legislature. They just don’t get to use other people’s money to do it. Banning taxpayer-funded lobbying would apply the similar rules to all government entities.
At the 2018 Republican Party of Texas State Convention, delegates heard the concerns of taxpayers, and made property tax reform and ending taxpayer-funded lobbying legislative priorities for 2019. It’s time for lawmakers to stand with taxpayers, not the tax increase lobbyists and the governments who hire them.
As for local government officials, they constantly complain that if we limit how fast they can raise taxes they may have to cut public safety. Here’s a better alternative: Take the millions being spent on lobbyists and lobby associations and spend it on public safety instead.
Let’s make 2019 the year we put taxpayers first and finally get property taxes under control. To do that, we must end taxpayer-funded lobbying.
James Dickey is chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.
Article also available at: https://www.apnews.com/