We are nearing the start of the next legislative session and I am excited to share with you some of the priorities my office is working on in a new series of newsletters we’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks. Today, I want to talk about local debt.
Texans are saddled with the second highest local government debt burden in the country. Local governments currently borrow through the use of bonds, which are approved by the voters in their jurisdiction. Often these elections are not held during the November general elections when voter engagement and turnout are highest. Despite the low level of voter participation in bond elections, the entire community is responsible for an outcome in which more debt is incurred.
Local governments owe it to their citizens to provide a compelling case for taking on new debt in a way which recognizes and discloses both the ultimate impact on an individual’s property tax burden and the entities’ current, outstanding debt obligations.
To this aim, I intend to propose legislation requiring local governments to disclose to individuals the impact of a proposed bond on their property tax burden through mail. Further, after this information has been mailed out, the local government must hold a public meeting in which the total fiscal impact of the proposed new debt is explained and the citizens are afforded an opportunity to participate in dialogue on the merits of the proposal. And finally, when citizens go to vote, the ballot must contain information on the proposed new debt, including the average increase in taxes for the properties affected, as well as the total cost to repay the debt.
If we arm citizens with the most complete information, they will be able to make the best decisions for their community and their wallets. Bonds are a necessary tool for financing large projects, but we cannot allow “death by a thousand cuts” for our Texas property owners to continue. While I recognize that local governments will incur a cost to inform voters of this important information, the cost of the current system has proven itself far too great to continue without smart reforms that empower taxpayers.
Also, I need to hear from you! Here are two ways for you to interact with my office:
(1) Please take the five minutes to go to my website and take my
SD10 Legislative Survey. Tell me what matters to you!
(2) Grab your cell phone and text KONNI to 97000 to join my text alert system! Next session I will be sending text alerts on priority bills for SD10 and keeping you up-to-date on the latest in your state Capitol.