Statement by Peggy Venable, Texas Director, Americans for Prosperity
AUSTIN - Texas Comptroller Susan Combs unveiled a new website today which focuses on local government debt. The report features a child holding a sign “Will Work to Pay Public Debt.”
The debt report released today is the second in a series of reports designed to help Texas taxpayers learn more about how government reaches into their wallets.
Before approving new debt, the Comptroller’s office recommends citizens ask three questions:
First, how much debt are we already responsible for repaying? Second, how much debt service is being paid or what is the interest? And third, what will the annual debt service requirement for any new bond issue be or how much will we be paying in interest
Local debt comprises 83% of Texas outstanding state and local debt. Of the 10 largest states, Texas ranks lowest in state debt per capita but the Lone Star State ranks #2 in local debt per capita.
These are important questions as government debt represents spending today, financed with tomorrow’s dollars. And those dollars come with interest.
Of the $322 billion in local debt in Texas, fully 40% of that is in interest. Local school districts carry the most debt of any taxing entities in the state.
This data is particularly important as few voters cast bond election ballots. In 2011’s November election, turnout ranged from 5.8% to 16.2%.
As important as the data, the Comptroller also recommends some changes to provide still greater transparency for taxpayers and voters. She recommends that all bond election ballots include information on the current debt, change to the tax rate required to support the new debt and the effect that the tax rate would have on the average residential homeowner.
The Comptroller also recommends that authority to issue debt without taxpayer approval through the use of Certificates of Obligation (COs) be limited and the petition process to put it on the ballot for voter approval be simplified.
Finally, the Comptroller proposes all governmental taxing entities post their annual financial reports and long-term obligations on their website and provides suggestions for other disclosure.
Americans for Prosperity applauds the Comptroller for this important transparency measure, the data provided as well as the recommendations to provide more information for taxpayers.
The website is: www.TexasitsYourMoney.org