As counties complete the over-complicated budget and tax rate process, it offers an opportunity to reflect on these duties and the upcoming legislative session. Some recent newspaper editorials actually focused on the connection between mandates and local taxes.
First, the Waco Tribune noted that “while state lawmakers claim the high ground, spending-wise, they too often issue unfunded mandates. That tendency makes local governments the black hats in raising taxes.”
“The irony is that though Texas ranks 49th in state taxes, it ranks 13th in the nation in property taxes. Why? In part, it is because of those unfunded mandates. They force cities, counties, school districts and community colleges to lean on local tax rates to do what the state orders. They allow lawmakers to say they held down taxes, while foisting expenses onto local governments that force them to raise their taxes or get by with fewer resources.”
The Houston Chronicle responded to anti-tax statements by Speaker Craddick and others: “Our state is still one of the lowest in state-local tax burden, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. Texans pay 6.4 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared to 11.8 percent in New Jersey and 11.7 percent in New York, the two highest. Californians pay 10.5 percent. Texas ranks among the 10 lowest states in state-local tax burden.” We have not seen any rush by the tax complainers to move to New Jersey.
Finally, the Denton Record Chronicle offered some sympathy: “We have no way of knowing for sure but we’d bet that very few candidates for public office think much about budget-making processes before throwing their hats into the ring. If they did, we wouldn’t have nearly so many candidates. It is a tedious and thankless job, and our hearts go out to our elected officials each year at budget time, even to the ones who give us the willies for the rest of the year.”
Thanks for your efforts. Take a deep breath, and prepare for the 81st Session of the Texas Legislature, even if it gives us all “the willies.”