Taxpayer Funded Lobbying is defined as the practice of using funds that come directly or indirectly from taxpayers for political lobbying purposes. Taxpayer Funded Lobbying is one government lobbying another. In the most common case, a city, county or school district uses taxpayer funds to pay dues to belong to a group such as the Texas Municipal League, The Texas Association of Counties, The Texas Association of School Boards or even the Texas Association of School Administrators and that association then donates money directly to political causes: most commonly, to a campaign committee for a ballot measure. These associations are largely financed by government entities using taxpayer funds, the activities of staff lobbyist, consultants and other advocacy efforts illustrate how members interest are often far different from those of the taxpayer.
Under current state law, political subdivisions may spend public funds to hire lobbyist for the purpose of supporting or opposing measures under consideration by the state legislature. You can be sure that millions of your tax dollars will be spent this year by government agencies to fight such important issues as property tax reform, reduction of regulations and fees and importantly Forced Annexation which annexations number one purpose is to increase tax base.
Many lobbyists participate in the political process through campaign contributions, fundraising, electioneering and other political activities. The receipt of public dollars by these individuals presents the possibility that public funds could be used to directly or indirectly fund political activity.
In 2017, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, possibly the worlds largest public policy think tank, published a report finding: “Cities, counties, school districts and special districts spent as much as $41 million in taxpayer dollars on outside lobbyist to lobby state government during legislative session.” Another report from the Houston Chronicle found that the five largest Texas cities spent $2.5 million on lobbying in 2016-17.
The Texas Senate Research Center notes that roughly half of the registered lobbyist in Austin has some level of “city and county” government involvement.
That is a lot of money and people dedicated to persuading state lawmakers. It begs the question: just what are they trying to accomplish?
A few quick clicks on The Texas Ethics Commission website finds cities across the state hiring lobbyist to come before the legislature. A huge number of “associations” paid for from taxpayer coffers likewise represent taxing entities using lobbyist and other “government relations” employees. School administrators have lobbyist often allocated directly out of the school district budget as do school boards and others. One would be hard pressed to find any government entity that doesn’t use taxpayer funds to lobby lawmakers.
So we ask, “What is the solution?” I suggest we the people lobby our legislators to “ban political subdivisions with taxing authority from hiring lobbyist, from paying dues to an association of similarly-situated entities which lobbies.” I suggest you reach out to your state senator and your House of Representatives member and encourage them to do what is right for Texas by supporting legislation that bans tax payer lobbying.
Governments have no business using taxpayer dollars to lobby for more taxpayer dollars. It’s time to end taxpayer-funded lobbying in Texas. I would like to remind all that the abolition of Taxpayer funded lobbying in Texas is in the top five legislative priorities of the Republican Party of Texas, passed in the 2018 Convention by more than 95 percent of the 9000+ delegates.