Texas experienced tremendous population growth in 2022, becoming “the only state other than California with a resident population above 30 million.” One key reason for Texas’ booming population is the state’s reputation for low taxes and limited government. People want small government and they’re willing to vote with their feet to prove it.
And yet, that philosophical framework is under threat today from a practice promulgated by Texas’ local governments. This pernicious practice sees local officials spend tax dollars to hire registered lobbyists to petition state lawmakers for more spending and higher taxes. In other words, local governments are spending taxpayer money to lobby for more government. And it’s no small sum either.
According to a new report, local governments spent as much as $75 million in 2021 to lobby the legislature against taxpayer interests. Worse, that figure only tells part of the story as it “excludes the salaries and activities of in-house lobbyists, also known as intergovernmental relations personnel, as well as membership dues and other monies paid to pro-government associations, like the Texas Municipal League, the Texas Association of School Boards, and others.” In all, local governments spent an appalling amount attempting to influence legislation.
Fortunately, state lawmakers seem to recognize the need for change. Already, several bills—including HB 170, SB 175, and SB 425—have been filed to slow or stop the practice. One of the more comprehensive, SB 175, would prohibit political subdivisions from using public funds to hire Chapter 305 registered lobbyists or pay nonprofits that hire or contract with Ch. 305 registered lobbyists. Remarking on the impetus for the bill, the author said:
“Taxpayers should not be bankrolling efforts to advocate against their interests. Every step of the way, taxpayer-funded lobbyists have lobbied against key conservative priorities including: property tax relief, election integrity, disclosures of what bonds truly cost taxpayers, the constitutional ban on a state income tax, and they even opposed the bill to fund and protect the teacher retirement pension system.”
The problem is obvious, and so is the solution. Now it’s up to the Texas Legislature to lead. We are an energy leader, a population leader, a business leader, and an economic leader. By becoming the first state in the nation to end tax dollars from going to lobbyists at any level, Texas can, once again, establish itself as the tip of the spear in another important sphere.