Interim Charges on Local Debt and Economic Development Released
Lt. Governor Dewhurst continues to release interim charges to committees of the Texas Senate to study prior to the 2015 legislative session. City-related charges relating to local debt and economic development are reprinted below. TML will continue to monitor additional charges released by the Lt. Governor and the progress of each study.
Intergovernmental Relations Committee
- Study and make recommendations to increase transparency in the authorization, issuance, and appropriation of debt at the local level. Make recommendations that will increase citizen awareness and understanding of a local government’s fiscal state. Analyze reforms such as requiring local governments to move bond elections to a uniform date coinciding with state general elections, and requiring local governments to publicly post their annual budgets, annual financial reports, and check registers online. Survey other states’ initiatives to increase transparency in the process of local governments incurring new debt obligations.
- Examine the immediate and long-term fiscal impact that bonds and other types of obligations issued by local governments have on current and future generations of taxpayers. Specifically analyze whether local governments should be required to use ballot language that includes their current outstanding debt, existing per capita debt, current debt service, and any increase the ballot measure would have on property taxes. Make recommendations on additional ballot language that will better inform voters of their local governments’ current and future fiscal states.
Economic Development Committee
- Study and make recommendations to develop a biennial state review process for economic development programs to determine their effectiveness in keeping Texas economically competitive while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely. As a part of this study, the committee should review processes used in other states related to the analysis and reporting requirements for economic development programs.
City officials should pay particular attention to the Intergovernmental Relations charges, which relate to a continued focus on local debt by certain legislators and other state leaders. A previous edition of the Legislative Update reported on how the comptroller’s information on local government debt doesn’t tell the whole story.
The League will participate in, and report on, interim legislative activities on the issue as well.