Current government spending is out of control. Instead of cutting programs and corporate welfare, lawmakers are laboring to continue with business as usual. This session, the status quo was maintained with accounting gimmicks. In local governments, boondoggle spending is accomplished by incurring debt. Same ends, different means.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported this week that local governments account for 85 percent of Texas debt accumulation. This fact was overshadowed by the talking point that Texas debt incursion is outstripping D.C. since 2003. Critiquing statewide officials instead of drawing attention to boondoggles, low turnout and confusing local elections is media misdirection.
Local governments have mastered the confusion game. Instead of holding uniform elections including party identification, local governments avoid labels and keep constituents guessing. This keeps turnout down, which makes passing bond initiatives easier. Bond initiatives give you debt.
These elections to raise taxes and bonds are passed off under the commonly used conservative language “local control”. Abuse of this setup is so widespread that corporate interests are unabashedly involved in the process. For instance, construction companies set up local election websites to convince voters about bond propositions.
Bonds are often sold for expensive, non-essential things like rail, bike trails and football stadiums. Debt like this has nothing to do with supposedly low state spending levels.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram highlights a problem, but misdirects ire. Liberals want lawmakers to raise taxes. Conservative resistance is a function of citizens being overtaxed, not neglect for government necessities. In misguided messaging like this there is a false assumption that all government spending is good, necessary, and already as efficient as it can be.
Relief from local debt could be on the horizon. This session, in order to comply with new federal law, Texas adopted new election standards. These standards could force cities to hold more local elections in November alongside higher profile and party identified statewide elections. By putting local elections alongside the ones people actually show up for, voters will be more likely to learn about local candidates and bond issues.
There’s only one reason to ever vote for a bond election: you can’t imagine a world without the goody the bond election offers. Otherwise, it goes on the already high local debt pile.
Local debt problems highlight another area of government for local conservatives to keep in check.