|·Guest Column by Michael Quinn Sullivan
The attitude of city, school, and county officials towards taxpayers was summed up in the title of a presentation last summer at the conference of the Texas Municipal League: “Shaking The Money Tree.” They want unfettered access to your wallet, and they will use your own money to block legislation empowering taxpayers.
· To be clear, that presentation was made by TML’s legislative counsel, Bill Longley. And don’t forget, TML is funded almost entirely with your money. Cities join TML with your money, and city officials – elected and unelected alike – attend TML conferences with your money.
· Only one city councilman had the courage to speak out publicly about the closed-door, confidential briefing.
· “While taxpayers across the state are being forced out of their homes by rising property taxes, Texas Municipal League, the leading advocate for taxpayer-funded lobbying and opponent of property tax reform, sees them as little more than a never-ending source of revenue to be shaken down even further.” – Corsicana City Councilman Chris Woolsey
· If your city is a member of the Texas Municipal League – and almost every city is – then you are involuntarily funding your own political opposition in the Texas Legislature.
· This is why the failure of the Texas House to pass an outright ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying was a betrayal of taxpayers. The ban passed the Texas Senate, but it was gutted and killed in the House. Brandon Waltens’ wrote an “autopsy report” on the ignoble death of the ban.
· Senate Bill 29 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) would have banned the practice across the board, prohibiting counties, cities, school districts, and other local entities from spending taxpayer dollars for the purpose of lobbying the state legislature.
· SB29 passed out of the Senate on April 17, but was stalled in the House for more than a month as opponents like State Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) watered it down. The House leadership, under the direction of then Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Lake Jackson), allowed opponents to further weaken the measure on the floor by exempting school district bureaucracies from the lobbying ban.
· The House ended up voting to kill SB29, with 85 House members – Democrats and Republicans – opposing this important taxpayer protection.
· Texas taxpayers shouldn’t be compelled to fund their own opposition. If Republicans maintain control of the Texas House, they should make passage of a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying at the top of their to-do list.
· That was the message sent by Texas Republicans last week. According to 1.86 million GOP primary voters, Texas lawmakers should ban taxpayer-funded lobbying.
· Not everyone got the message.
· GOP primary runoff elections feature two candidates who want to keep gouging the taxpayers. One is incumbent State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van), who voted against the ban in 2019 and will continue to be against taxpayers on that and many issues. Flynn is being challenged by conservative reformer Bryan Slaton.
· The other is Glenn Rogers who said “I am against the ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying.” When the House District 60 audience to which he was speaking can be heard audibly gasping, Rogers added, “You heard that right… I’m very much a Republican, but I also have a brain.”
· A brain? Probably. But a champion for taxpayers? Not according to 94 percent of Republican primary voters. Rogers faces conservative champion Jon Francis in the open-seat race.