Local Governments Can Only Overpower Taxpayers If They Are Well Funded

August 6, 2021
TFR Staff
Property Tax, Spending

There seems to be a common pattern in Texas politics when it comes to local governments. Whether it is increasing property taxes, subsidizing businesses, imposing mask mandates, or defunding the police, local governments seem at odds not only with the majority of taxpayers but also with the Texas state government.

Over the last few sessions, we have seen the state legislature roll back the tax rates of local governments forcing “triggered elections” that make the taxpayers aware that their local government is again raising taxes too high. We have seen Governor Abbott use executive orders to stop out-of-control covid mask mandates. We also saw legislation to prevent cities from defunding their police departments to prevent rises in violent crime.

Why does the state constantly have to step in and stop local governments from oppressing citizens? Part of the reason why is that all of the major cities in Texas (except for Ft. Worth) are Democrat-controlled, while the state government is controlled by Republicans. So it makes sense that there would be differences in policies about how to govern. However, there is a more specific problem that allows local governments to enforce bad policies. They have too much money.

That’s right, our local governments are constantly in possession of too much money! Any government can only oppress citizens to the extent to which their budget allows. This is most apparent in how homeowner’s properties are taxed. Did you know that property taxes have increased by 181% in the last 20 years?  This is because local governments are able to hide how they determine property taxes (an inconsistent appraisal system) and hide how they collect them (typically in mortgages, or rent).

This confusion for the taxpayer results in property taxes that go up every year little by little. Most people won’t notice until it is time to protest (which they make as difficult as possible). For homeowners, this means that you are stuck paying rent to the government forever and you can expect it to go up every year without much recourse available to you. So are taxpayers stuck paying rent perpetually?

No, there is a way to stop this continuing cycle of indebtedness to our local governments. We must eliminate the immoral school property tax completely. Only through the elimination of the property will taxpayers finally own their homes and end the game of “hide and seek” local governments have used against homeowners for decades on property taxes.

As TFR has been reporting this can be done without raising taxes or swapping the property tax for another consumption-based tax. This can be accomplished using surpluses that will now be a normal occurrence thanks to the recently passed state spending limit bill. The comptroller recently reported a surplus of $7.85 billion due to this spending limit. The TFR plan to eliminate the school property tax would involve paying down school property taxes with the entire surplus and dedicating every surplus to paying down school property taxes until they are eliminated.

The only way to get control of local tyrants that spend our tax money irresponsibly is to cut their legs out from underneath them. We should not give local governments the ability to play the shell game with tax rates that confuse and abuse homeowners that they are supposed to protect.

By providing school funding from elsewhere we take away the local government’s incentive to tax us to death. After all, a tyrant with no money is unable to be a tyrant because he can’t afford it. Let us defund local tyranny and shrink local governments to a level so small that we barely know they are there.