Texas’ local governments spend tens of millions every year to influence state-level decision-making. These publicly-funded advocacy campaigns are oftentimes led by or receive help from 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 local governmental entity that engages in this practice to a great degree is the city of Austin.  

According to the city’s most recent adopted budget (see pg. 276):  

“In fiscal year 2022-2023, the City has projected expenditures of $1,220,209 for Intergovernmental Relations and expenditures of $618,000 for additional services…In fiscal year 2023-24, the City is planning on a budget for Intergovernmental Relations of $1,269,375 and a budget of $618,000 for additional services…” 

On the basis of these figures—which may only offer a partial accounting due to the way that local governmental entities have interpreted the reporting requirements—we may observe that the city of Austin spends a great deal on lobbyists. However, it’s what those tax dollars are spent in furtherance of that Texans should really take note of. 

Even though the city of Austin purports to support legislation that improves the lives of everyday people, it often prioritizes measures that benefit itself or that erode an individual’s natural rights. Consider the city’s most recent legislative agenda for the 88th Legislature which laid out the following priorities for its lobbyists to achieve:  

  1. Fight Fiscal Discipline: Oppose legislation that seeks to: “Impos[e] a limitation on city expenditures, a more restrictive revenue cap of any type, or an exclusion of new property in the effective rate calculations.” 
  2. Create New Sources of Income: “Support legislation that provides local options for revenue expansion and diversification…” 
  3. Keep Regulatory Control: Support legislation that protects: “the City’s authority to promote good land use through…land use and zoning regulations (including short-term rentals, billboard regulations, tree preservation and mitigation fees, parkland dedication, and landscape regulations)” 
  4. Preserve Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying: “Oppose legislation that prohibits or restricts the City’s current ability to petition the Legislature and its elected representatives on behalf of its residents.” 
  5. Push the Equity Agenda: “Support legislation that promotes equity for residents of Austin including pay-equity, education-equity, housing-equity, and health-equity.” 
  6. Promote Gun Restrictions: “Support legislation that reduces gun violence in coordination with local law enforcement, including legislation to…Raise the minimum age of purchase from 18 to 21 for semi-automatic, assault style rifles; Allow local jurisdictions to regulate the sale or public carry of semi-automatic, assault style rifles; Prohibit the sale or possession of ammunition magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds…” 

These are just a few issues that the city of Austin spent taxpayer money on to promote or prevent at the Texas Legislature. In the 89th legislative session, we can expect the city to continue lobbying on a similar set of issues that benefit government at the expense of the everyman. 

Governments shouldn’t be lobbying government for more government. It’s a misuse of public money, an infringement upon citizens’ constitutional right to petition their elected officials, and it enables the progressive agenda. For these reasons, we should urge the next Legislature to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying once and for all.