Every year, cities, counties, school districts, and special districts spend gobs of taxpayer money to influence state elected officials and policymaking. The monies committed go to pay for a mix of external lobbyists (i.e. registered lobbyists), internal lobbyists (i.e. intergovernmental relations personnel), and pro-government associations (i.e. Texas Municipal League, Texas Association of Counties, Texas Association of School Boards, etc.). One municipality that is a noticeable participant in this type of publicly-funded advocacy is the city of San Antonio.  

According to the city’s latest adopted budget, officials spent almost a half-million in 2023, which corresponds with the commencement of the legislative session, and will spend approximately $150,000 this year. Here’s more from pg. 599 of its budget:  

“For FY 2023, the best available estimate of City expenditures for directly or indirectly influencing or attempting to influence the outcome of state legislation or state administrative action is $412,500. For FY 2024, $149,500 is adopted to be spent to directly or indirectly influence or attempt to influence the outcome of state legislation or state administrative action.” 

In addition, the city also maintains an in-house Government Affairs department that is tasked with “strategically advocat[ing] to pass legislation, obtain[ing] funding, and secur[ing] regulatory changes on behalf of the city’s local, state, and federal priorities.” The department’s budget for FY 2024 is $1,530,505. 

What’s more, the city also appropriated almost $1 million this fiscal year for the purpose of paying dues to pro-government associations. Per pg. 591 of its budget: 

Association Dues – $883,494 This amount provides for the annual membership dues for associations to include the Alamo Area Council of Governments, Texas Municipal League, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Forum for Black Public Administrators, and the Downtown Improvement District.” 

In light of these expenses, we may observe that the city spends a tremendous amount on lobbying. However, what is perhaps more illuminating are the purposes for which those monies are being committed. 

As outlined in the city’s 88th State Legislative Program, officials used public resources to promote numerous progressive policies that sought to expand the size and reach of government, including: 

  1. Fighting to Keep Taxes High: “Oppose legislation that would be detrimental to the City’s interests and results in the loss of revenue or negatively impacts the authority to generate revenues, including mandates that increase costs to the city.” 
  2. Blocking Land-Use Reform: “Oppose legislation that would erode municipal authority to enforce development-related regulations, such as land use, permitting, and inspections, as well as legislation that interferes with our cost-recovery model.” 
  3. Promoting Corporate Welfare: “Support the continuation of local and state incentives to supplement local economic development strategies to recruit and retain employers.” 
  4. Expanding Medicaid: “Support Medicaid expansion to provide health insurance to low-income Texans.” 
  5. Passing Gun Control: “Support responsible firearm safety policies and additional resources to help mitigate gun violence.” 

As not much has changed since 2023, one can reasonably expect the city of San Antonio to continue lobbying for similar destructive policies in the 89th legislative session. This is a major reason why the next Texas Legislature must get serious about banning taxpayer-funded lobbying. State lawmakers shouldn’t allow local governments to use public monies to endlessly push a progressive agenda. It’s not wise on many different levels.