By Samuel Barr
The Texas economy is the envy of the nation. By championing policies of limited government and low taxes, policymakers have encouraged businesses and individuals alike to make the Lone Star State their new home. But Texas’ preference for small government is really only true when looking at the state level.
Many local governments—including cities, counties, school districts, and special districts—continue to show a penchant for big government policies, as argued in a recent Center for Local Governance oped in the Austin American Statesman.
Here’s more from the article:
“Broadly speaking, policies enacted by cities, counties, and school districts tend to favor government-centric solutions that often corrode individual liberty and economic freedom. There are, of course, exceptions, especially in smaller, more rural communities. But the overall tilt is most decidedly to the left, in the direction of big government.
To illustrate this point, let’s consider three areas: taxes, spending and debt.
From 1992 to 2010, local property tax levies soared by 188 percent while population grew just 40 percent, signaling a major discrepancy between how fast property taxes are growing and how fast those that pay property taxes are coming.
From 2000 to 2009, local government spending grew by 84 percent, while population and inflation combined rose just 44.9 percent. In other words, cities, counties, and school districts are outspending population and inflation by almost 2-to-1.
Consider that from 2001 to 2011, local debt soared by 122.4 percent, while population and inflation grew just 53.3 percent. A trend like this is not sustainable over the long-term.
Whether you look at a rapidly increasing property tax, out of control spending, or swelling local debt, it’s clear to see that local governments are out of sync with the state’s policy of fiscal responsibility. While state lawmakers are laser-focused on tax cuts and budget restraint, local governments are persisting in the same tax-and-spend policies that have led others down a troubled path. There truly is a great divide in Texas.