The mayors of Texas’ largest cities on Monday pushed back against an initiative by state lawmakers to place new revenue caps on local communities as a way to answer conservatives’ demands to cut property taxes.
As the city CEOs who represent a third of Texas’ population threw their clout behind blocking the new caps, saying it would hurt their ability to provide basic services, they also said they will oppose attempts by the Legislature to limit local control by overturning ordinances on fracking, plastic bags and tree-trimming.
Gov. Greg Abbott last month complained that Texas was being “California-ized” by local governments passing bans on plastic bags, fracking and tree-cutting, saying, “We need to peel back some of these ridiculous, unnecessary requirements.”
Previous legislative efforts to restrict cities’ rule-making authority have met with resistance from those citing the need for local control. Several bills in the last session to overturn cities’ authority to ban bags failed to win approval amid opposition from cities and environmental groups.
At their news conference Monday, the mayors used the same reasoning to oppose tax cuts being contemplated by lawmakers.
Calling themselves the M-10, for the 10 largest cities they represent, the mayors said in a joint statement that new caps on property taxes would impair the ability of cities to properly manage their operations and would thwart the ability of cities to solve problems in their own ways.
“We are very clear that we need to focus on solving the problems of Texas in a fiscally responsible way,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker, echoing the sentiments of other mayors who said local governments have limited property tax increases in many areas and are budgeting in a frugal way.
The city of Houston has not increased its property tax rate since 1994; in fact, the city has cut its tax rate since then, though its revenues have continued to grow because of higher property appraisals.
San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor said local governments should be allowed to determine their own budgets, not affected adversely by Austin.
“Our cities are the economic engine for the Texas miracle,” she said.
It’s not just the cities that are feeling the potential crush here. That’s good, because Texas’ cities are increasingly out of step politically with the state. I doubt the Lege would have much concern about sticking it to the cities, but if they’re hearing it from county officials as well, they might hesitate. I hope, anyway. And I’ll say again, the Mayoral candidates need to get on this, like now. This Legislature has the capability and the inclination to do a lot to affect their agendas, and not in a good way. What are they waiting for? Trail Blazers has more.