A group of Texas mayors penned a letter to the governor opposing several of his special-session priorities. While they claim the reforms are a state takeover that erodes “local control,” the exact opposite is true—they empower Texas property owners.
“Local control” sounds noble, until you realize it’s being hijacked to protect local government control and bully their taxpaying constituents.
Let’s explore some of Abbott’s priorities which the mayors called “harmful”:
Limiting Annexation Authority
Cities are currently spending taxpayer dollars lobbying to protect one of the most offensive abuses of property rights in recent memory — “forced annexation.” Under current law, cities are allowed to force themselves onto property owners outside the city’s jurisdiction, and without obtaining the property owners’ approval.
It amounts to taxation without representation. Texans can be taxed and regulated by politicians they did not elect, and without voter consent. The 18 mayors who signed the opposition letter support this deplorable practice.
The term “revenue cap” itself is a misnomer. The popular tax proposal supported by Abbott would simply give local taxpayers a vote on excessive property tax hikes.
State law already requires voter approval for school districts, which is why “TRE” (tax ratification elections) and bond elections exist. Abbott’s reform would simply require elections for all local taxing entities. This reform passed the Senate during the regular session, but was gutted in the House.
Even if voters rejected a proposed tax hike, that city or county would still be allowed to raise taxes and increase its budget. In fact, the most conservative Senate proposal would still allow for a 20-percent tax increase on a city’s existing residents, over a five-year period.
Unlike the state, local governments do not face a legislative spending limit of any kind. Since spending ultimately drives tax increases, conservative lawmakers want a limit for local entities that allows for population growth and inflation.
Under Abbott’s proposal, governments in booming areas could still grow their budgets faster than sluggish areas. The mayors’ claim that “growing communities” are not provided “flexibility” under Abbott’s proposal is, at best, misleading.
Spending limits are good fiscal policy. They force officials to prioritize core needs and reevaluate their budgets. Instead of wasting millions on handouts to corporations, lobbying lawmakers, and other non-essential bloat, localities would be forced to focus on core functions, such as roads and public safety.
Measures Preempting Local Development Ordinances
Texas property owners should be protected from local overregulation. The fact that Abbott’s “tree” ordinance has been so widely ridiculed by liberal newspapers shows how hostile liberals are to property rights.
When a buyer purchases a property, they own the property and all its assets, not the government. There are other examples of egregious ordinances, such as amortization, where cities can suddenly deny an entrepreneur a permit to operate their existing business. State laws that preempt burdensome overregulation by Texas’ localities should be celebrated, not scorned.
Below are the 18 Texas Mayors who signed a letter opposing reforms designed to empower Texas property owners: