Taxpayer Funded Government Lobbyists: Are You Unknowingly Funding a Lobbyist?
The 84th Legislative session in Austin was fun to watch. An intriguing debate was had surrounding “Local Control”. This debate will only grow and take higher priority on the floor of the House in upcoming sessions.
The debate about local control stems around what Austin can legislate in regards to local governments–cities, counties and special purpose districts. Often lost in this debate is the fact that those governments are themselves creations of the state; therefore the state has complete oversight.
As with any debate, there are citizens on both sides…but some citizens have more of a voice than others.
The local governments fighting for the position to be allowed to grow without state restrictions use taxpayer money to hire expensive lobbyists to wine and dine the Austin establishment. What do they lobby for? More of your money, or at the very least, the ability to go get more of your money through an increased right to taxation. What about voters who don’t agree with those policies? Where is their voice?
Taxpayer funded lobbying is simply undemocratic. This type of lobbying seeks to elevate the “we have the right to do what we desire as a district” side of the debate over their opponents by using public money to do so. This is an unnecessary waste. Governments already have direct access to their state representatives and senators. All cities and counties, of any size, have government affairs staffers who can access the state congress to lobby their position. There is no shortage of contact between local governments and Austin elected officials. Besides – shouldn’t your city be spending its money on other more important, local issues?
One of the challenges with taxpayer funded lobbying is the lack of transparency and accountability. Figuring out exactly how much and how your local city or school district is spending on lobbying efforts is impossible. No government discloses this as a line item and it’s often disguised as membership in industry organizations and educational non-profits. Those groups are often nothing more than lobby organizations by a different name. (Texas Municipal League and Texas Association of School Boards are great examples of this.)
We need to level the playing field–no taxpayer funded lobbying. Let the citizens activate, mobilize, fundraise and debate the issues in a fair democratic manner, not at the taxpayers’ expense. Let no voice outweigh the other due to government funding. Isn’t that, after all, good public policy?