Buried near the 40-minute mark of the surreptitious recording of House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and the far-right Empower Texans head Michael Q. Sullivan was a brief exchange that spelled out the antipathy many in the state Legislature feel toward Texas’ cities:
Dennis Bonnen: In this office, in the conference room at that end, any mayor or county judge who’s dumbass enough to come meet with me, I told them with great clarity, my goal is for this to be the worst session in the history of the legislature for cities and counties.
Dustin Burrows: I hope the next session is even worse.
Dennis Bonnen: And I’m all for that.
The quote made it around certain Twitter circles yesterday morning. The plain language explained what plenty of bills have done in recent legislative sessions: kneecap urban areas from passing policy the Lege doesn’t want. Last year came reform bills that capped the rate at which cities can raise property taxes. The Lege banned red light cameras. It blocked cities from charging private telecommunication companies for using public right of way, particularly concerning when you think of all the impending 5G infrastructure.
Houston estimates that not charging telecom companies for right of way will cost it $27 million per year. Taken altogether, the bills passed by the Lege will create a $44 million annual shortfall for the city of Dallas by 2023, according to a budget forecast. Even Moody’s found the property tax reform law would generate “minimal” homeowner savings but would “hurt local governments substantially.” That sounds like a plan to screw local governments more than provide relief to taxpayers.
Burrows, the Lubbock state representative who was also heard spouting off on the tape, later added, “We hate cities and counties.” He told Sullivan he had pitched the governor on taking away what cities can use from sales tax to pay for economic development, public transit, or other services.
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