Wait, what? Does this mean the people’s taxes are actually going to support big government and tax increases?
Wednesday’s headline-making tax reform committee hearing in Austin shed a light on the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying, as local government officials were grilled by tax-cutting champions who comprised a key Senate committee.
This practice of government feeding itself is nothing new, but the significant backlash against it is a rather recent development. In 2006, Peggy Venable, then the state director of Americans for Prosperity – Texas filed a lawsuit against her home county on this practice, bringing it to the limelight.
We’ll defer to the Republican Party of Texas to explain the problem further. We would post the Democrats’ statement on the matter as well, but none could be found at time of posting. (We’re sure Texas Libertarians agree, too.)
Under current state law, political subdivisions may spend public funds to hire lobbyists for the purpose of supporting or opposing measures under consideration by the state legislature.
According to the Texas Ethics Commission, political subdivisions spent an estimated $16 million on lobbyist compensation in 2015.
Also under current state law, governments can automatically deduct union dues from their employees’ paychecks, and these dues can then be used to fund political activity. These political activities may be contrary to the preferences of the taxpayers, who are, in essence, funding the dues collection and distribution.
Taxpayers and ratepayers of political subdivisions and special districts that hire lobbyists are forced to pay for lobby efforts of their jurisdiction, even if these efforts take positions contrary to their policy preferences. As an example, homeowners may prefer lower property taxes or even the complete replacement of property taxes, while a taxing jurisdiction may be employing lobbyists to protect or even raise property taxes.
Given that the interests of citizens may differ from those of their local governments, citizens’ legislative lobby efforts toward state elected officials might be adversely affected by the distinct disadvantage they face when contending with the agenda of taxpayer-funded lobbyists hired by political subdivisions.
Many lobbyists participate in the political process through campaign contributions, fundraising, electioneering, and other political activities. The receipt of public dollars by these individuals presents the possibility that public funds could be used to directly or indirectly fund political activity.
Ban political subdivisions with taxing authority from hiring lobbyists, from paying dues to an association of similarly-situated entities which lobbies, and from automatically deducting union dues.