Taxpayers had a good day in court this week, but it doesn't make up for the untold millions of dollars government entities have used in our money to lobby against the interests of the people paying for big government.
Some time ago my friend Peggy Venable at Americans for Prosperity filed a lawsuit against Williamson County alleging that the county used general revenue funds to join an association that lobbies. This is in violation to a state statute prohibiting that activity. Indeed, Williamson County is a member of Texas Association of Counties, which for years has flagrantly violated state law by using taxpayer dollars to lobby lawmakers. She was right and courageous to file the suit.
The case against the TAC seems pretty clear-cut. State law specifically prohibits the TAC from lobbying legislators, but they did it anyway. But they want to be excused for their transgression of the law: everyone else is using taxpayer money to directly or indirectly lobby the Legislature.
A few quick clicks on the Texas Ethics Commission website finds cities from Abilene to Uvalde hiring lobbyists to come before the Legislature. A huge number of "associations" paid for from taxpayer coffers likewise represent taxing entities using lobbyists and other "government relations" employees. School administrators have lobbyists – paid for from dues often allocated directly out of the school district budget – as do school boards and others. Indeed, one is hard-pressed to find any type of governmental entity that doesn't use taxpayer funds to lobby lawmakers.
And to lobby lawmakers against the interests of taxpayers. AFP has chronicled the antics of taxpayer-funded lobby groups using their own legislative agendas and compared those to the taxpayer views gathered in a scientific survey conducted by the Tower Institute. Clearly, taxpayers' views were diametrically opposed to the positions taken by groups who lobbied with tax dollars.
Most egregious was the hearing on tax and expenditure limits held during the legislative session this spring. Lobbyist after lobbyist came forward representing taxing entities, speaking out against taxpayer protections. Is that how you expected your local taxes to be spent?
They use your money to lobby your legislator to work against your interests.
Voters should ask pointed questions to city council, county commissioner and school board candidates about their use of lobbyists in Austin.
And, no, the "everybody else is doing it" excuse isn't acceptable.