Something For Nothing Conservatism Explained

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Had Enough Yet?, Taxes, The Budget at 10:58 am by wcnews

This editorial in the WacoTrib from yesterday, Texas No. 49, and proud of it?, does an excellent job of showing just how “something for nothing conservatism” works.

..Texas ranks 49th in state taxes, it ranks 13th in the nation in property taxes. Why? In part, it is because of those unfunded mandates. They force cities, counties, school districts and community colleges to lean on local tax rates to do what the state orders.

Coming into the last Legislature, the subject of unfunded mandates was discussed by the Texas Task Force on Appraisal Reform.

Gov. Rick Perry has assailed property appraisal creep as a “stealth tax.” Perry’s task force acknowledged grudgingly that unfunded mandates are even stealthier. They allow lawmakers to say they held down taxes, while foisting expenses onto local governments that force them to raise their taxes or to get by with fewer resources.

McLennan County Judge Jim Lewis says that 70 percent of his budget is state-required programs.

Some say that the syndrome called “push down” — when local governments raise the taxes, makes the process more representative than when the state raises them. That would be the case if the local governments had any say in the mandates. Instead, the mandates allow lawmakers and the governor to claim they are the picture of austerity.

Beyond the issue of unfunded mandates is the overarching question of what kind of a state we are and should be. Must we rely on toll roads for every highway construction project we need? Let’s hope not.

Must we let state parks wither, water resources dry up, services for the elderly, mentally ill and mentally retarded fall farther and farther behind as those populations grow?

One of the problems is that in recent years policymakers have put tax cuts ahead of these obligations.

The evidence shows that far from overtaxing its citizens, Texas is catching a free ride on local governments’ backs and also the backs of those who need its services the most.

These GOP legislative mandates are implemented at the local level. The GOP does not fund it with state money, which allows the legislature to crow, deceptively, about not raising taxes. The stealth taxation allows them to take credit for the new policy, while forcing the local governments to pay for it - forcing them to raise taxes.

And while the GOP plays it’s game of defunding needed priorities in our state, (roads/infrastructure, health care, state parks), middle class and low income Texans suffer. But that’s been the GOP plan all along.

The editorial references the Center for Public Policy Proirities (CPPP) report Building Texas: The 2008 Tax and Budget Primer. Also check out their recent reports, A Better Budget for Texas in 2010 and 2011, and Paying for a Better Budget for Texas in 2010 and 2011.

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