A recent report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) indicates that an increasing amount of taxpayer money is being spent by local governments for the purposes of hiring contract lobbyists to go to Austin.
The report indicates that upwards of $75 million was spent by local governments collectively to lobby the Texas State Legislature in 2021. Just two cycles earlier, in 2017, that number was $41 million, meaning the amount of taxpayer money spent by local governments has nearly doubled in that time.
The report also noted that the $75 million figure was on the low end. James Quintero, policy director for Government for the People at TPPF, explains:
“This figure excludes the salaries and activities of in-house lobbyists, also known as intergovernmental relations personnel, as well as membership dues and other monies paid to pro-government associations, like the Texas Municipal League, the Texas Association of Counties, the Texas Association of School Boards, and others. Thus, the $75 million spent by local governments to lobby is only a partial account—albeit an important one.”Texas Public Policy Foundation Research, January 2023
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has long been opposed to the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying and considers it immoral and a severe conflict of interest. It is one of the reasons we added the banning of taxpayer-funded lobbying to our Texas Prosperity Plan, as a policy that would easily help curb runaway spending on the local government level.
The Ongoing 88th Legislative Session
Thus far, State Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston), a TFR Taxpayer Champion, is the only lawmaker who has filed legislation seeking to ban the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying statewide. The legislation seeks to prohibit local governments and other political subdivisions from using taxpayer money to hire lobbyists, while also seeking to prohibit municipalities, counties, and other political subdivisions from paying membership dues to nonprofit organizations that in turn represent political subdivisions that hire contract lobbyists.
It remains unclear whether the issue will be made a legislative priority, as it had in the past, by Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Even so, the legislation Patrick threw his weight behind last legislative session was only a ban on some local jurisdictions, falling short of truly seeking to end the practice. Nevertheless, that legislation ultimately had its prospects cut short in the Texas House of Representatives.
Notably, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and House Speaker Dade Phelan have all posited their support for the policy in previous legislative sessions.
Middleton recently said:
“Taxpayers should not be bankrolling efforts to advocate against their interests, every step of the way, taxpayer-funded lobbyists have lobbied against key conservative priorities including: property tax relief, election integrity, disclosures of what bonds truly cost taxpayers, the constitutional ban on a state income tax, and they even opposed the bill to fund and protect the teacher retirement pension system.”Texas Scorecard, November 15, 2022
What Is Next?
The 88th Legislative Session is underway. Concerned taxpayers can contact their lawmakers.
Lawmakers have until Friday, March 10, to file legislation for potential consideration during the session. The session ends on Monday, May 29.