A Guest Column by: Michael Quinn Sullivan
- As our friends at the Texas Public Policy Foundation put it a while back, “Government lobbying on its own behalf – not on behalf of its taxpayers – is on the rise.”Taxpayers must stand against that trend.
- The existence of tax-funded lobbying means that taxpayers are literally forced to fund their legislative opposition.
According to reports filed with the state by lobbyists, as much as $376.6 million was spent to influence state policymakers in 2017. In the same year, 11 percent of the lobbying dollars spent, or about $41 million, was spent by the government to hire outside lobbyists to lobby government.
- Much of the $41 million spent by government to lobby government went to efforts contrary to the interests of their own constituents. Lobbyists hired with taxpayer dollars worked against common sense legislative agendas like limiting property taxes and reforming annexation laws.
- The City of Austin alone spends about $1 million annually to lobby the legislature, employing 14 lobbyists consisting of both independent hired guns and full-time city employees.
- Another form of tax-funded lobbying is done through public agency associationslike the Texas Municipal League, Texas Association of Counties, and many sub-affiliates. Unaccountable to voters, these groups shield the elected officials in their membership from the consequences of bad policy. One way they accomplish this is by uniformly pushing down recommendations and “policy changes” made to look like state rules. While the costs are escalating, this isn’t a new problem. In 1997, a two-sentence bill was filed that would have prohibited any political subdivision of the state from using public funds to hire someone whose main job was to lobby any government entity. That measure – predictably – failed.
- During the last two legislative sessions, bills were filed to curb the practice of tax-funded lobbying but were killed by House committee chairs appointed by for Speaker Joe Straus.
- Grassroots conservatives across Texas consider the practice of tax-funded lobbying anathema to limited government principles enough to dedicate a plank of the Texas GOP platformexpressing their opposition. Plank #217 reads: “We urge that the Texas Legislature enact legislation that prohibits tax-funded contract lobbying.”
- To end the practice of tax-funded lobbying, the legislature should: 1) ban the ability of local governments to hire outside lobbyists and legislative consultants; 2) prohibit political subdivisions from using public funds to hire someone whose main job is to lobby government entities, and; 3) prohibit public funds from flowing to public agency associations.
- If you think it’s time to ban the use of tax dollars to lobby against hardworking taxpayers, sign and share this petitionwith your friends!