Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation published the paper Just the Facts: Government Debt in Texas’s Most Populous Cities, Counties, and School Districts.
“Texas’s largest local governments are awash in public debt,” said TPPF’s James Quintero. “In fiscal year 2019, local governments borrowed a total of $365.3 billion, or more than $12,500 owed for every man, woman, and child in the Lone Star State.”
Of the amount owed by all local governments, school district debt accounted for the largest portion at 38% or $137.9 billion. Municipal government debt was the next highest, with cities owing a combined $113.5 billion or 31% of the total. Special district debt—led by water districts with $48.2 billion in debt—totaled $92.8 billion. County government debt rose to just over $20 billion or almost 6% of the entirety.
Digging further into the data reveals that Texas’s 10 largest city governments have amassed debts totaling $66.5 billion, its 10 largest school districts owe a combined $27.3 billion, and its 10 largest counties have borrowed more than $14 billion. Together, these 30 political subdivisions owe more than $100 billion.
Quintero concluded: “Massive local government debt threatens to upend the Texas Model of low taxes and limited government. We cannot let the status quo continue lest Texas turn into something unrecognizable. Big, bold changes are needed now.”