The Texas Bond Review Board (BRB)—the state agency charged with overseeing public debt—just published its 2015 Annual Report and it offers some interesting new insight on a familiar problem: local government debt.
According to the BRB’s report, Texas continues to rate poorly on local debt matters. Compared to the top ten most populous states in the nation, Texas’ aggregate debt load totals more than $225 billion which is the second largest amount owed. Only California had more red ink, owing $268.1 billion, while the average amount owed among the big states was $115 billion.
Texas also ranks poorly on a per capita basis. Compared to its large state peers, Texas’ local debt per capita ranks as the second highest burden, with each Texan owing $8,350 for his or her share. Only New York’s local debt per capita totaled more, with each New Yorker owing more than $10,600.
As I testified before the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations last week, one of the best ways to help Texans get a handle on this growing problem is to bring financial transparency to the voting booth. Voters should understand—for each ballot proposition—the tax and fee implications of their vote, the total debt being asked for, and the amount of debt already owed in their area. Financial transparency and voter education are critical starting points in this effort.
Source: Texas Bond Review Board, 2015 Annual Report (Chapter 1 – Page 9)