House Committee on Elections
May 13, 2013
Testimony by Peggy Venable on SB 637
Americans for Prosperity-Texas supports SB 637.
Americans for Prosperity -Texas has focused much of our attention on local government debt. Texas local governments are over $342 billion in debt – principal plus interest.
But few taxpayers know how much debt their local taxing entities have. And some local officials are not aware of the debt their own entity owes. We all know that it is the taxpayers who ultimately owe this debt.
The Texas Bond Review Board is the single best source for government debt in Texas. Staff there have been helpful and we have sent lots of citizens to that site for information.
SB 637 provides more information for voters.
For the past few years, every place I speak in Texas, we provide a one-pager with local debt information for that locale. I gave over 120 speeches last year. Without exception, when I ask if anyone knows how much debt their school district or city is carrying, they not only do not know – they usually guess millions of dollars less than what is owed.
Texas local debt is second highest in the country – second only to California which we consider to be the “Greece of America.” According to the State Comptroller, Texas’ local debt per capita is second only to New York.
The following is information which provides an oversight of the size of local debt in Texas.
As of 2012, Texas local governments owe $195.8 billion in debt, an incredible amount almost 5 times more than the state’s $41 billion in obligations. (If you add interest, the total local debt owed is a shocking $342.1 billion, as of Aug 2012, according to the Texas Bond Review Board).
Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse over the last three years. Here is a glimpse of how much our local governments owe in debt according to the latest data from the Texas Bond Review Board:
- School districts owe $64,082,807,000 ($107,308,672,675 with interest added)
- Cities, towns, and villages owe $63,242,930 ($98,334,297,927 with interest added)
- Water districts and authorities owe $30,977,123,000 ($49,531,325,424 with interest added)
- Other special districts and authorities owe $16,339,620,000 ($25,680,783,065 with interest added)
- Counties owe $14,666,824,000 ($21,052,050,396 with interest added)
- Community and junior colleges owe $4,258,327,000 ($6,483,827,264 with interest added)
- Hospital districts owe $3,239,381,000 ($5,782,129,932 with interest added)
We are borrowing against our children’s future. We are the first generation who is leaving our children and grandchildren worse off than previous generations. We are leaving our children a legacy – a legacy of debt, not the legacy most of us want to leave them.
While we have concern regarding the amount of debt local governments owe, SB 637 does NOT limit local government’s ability to increase debt. This legislation simply provides voters with information regarding the debt that taxing authority has already incurred.
SB 637 is a good government bill which provides for debt transparency. Americans for Prosperity-Texas supports SB 637.