Gov. Abbott, let local government address local needs

The 2017 Texas Legislative Session is in its final weeks. A lot is still roiling around the halls of the Imperial Pink Dome: Some good, most not and all worth keeping an eye on.

Notably, I read an editorial about a meeting Gov. Greg Abbott had with supporters in Corpus Christi. An almost off-the-cuff remark by the governor laid bare the great differences of opinion we have about how we should manage the affairs of this state. Speaking of the tax reform bill, Senate Bill 2, he commented that the Legislature should just stop taking pot shots at local government issues individually and go for the kill with legislation that would simply allow the state to step in any time officials believe they need to fix local problems.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted the governor as saying: “As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations, I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to pre-empt local regulations, is a superior approach.”

Really, governor?  Why don't you use your "superior" approach to fix public education, something you actually have a responsibility for? Counties are constitutional. We have duties conferred by the Texas Constitution. We hold offices created therein. Legislative fiat cannot be substituted for local control. Our state doesn't operate that way.

Most of us believe that the best form of government is the one that is closest to the people. I doubt seriously if the governor has ever sat in a room full of his relatives, friends and neighbors and set a property tax rate. It's called accountability. We invented governmental transparency. We have no place to hide. Everybody knows where to find us, and find us they do.

Governor, I invite you to join me this summer. Let's go on a road trip. Let's visit the Panhandle, the Big Thicket, the Trans Pecos and the Valley. Let's watch commissioners courts struggle with the budget process, struggle to find a way to pay for the state mandates the state won't pay for and struggle to determine just how much is needed to get through another year.

Rainy Day Fund?  We don't even have a Rainy Minute Fund!  The property tax is the only revenue stream we have been given. We didn't choose it. But we have learned to live with it and to live within our means. We don't need a balanced budget amendment. We don't have a choice.

Counties don't get to choose who moves in and who doesn't. Some Texas counties are among the fastest growing in the nation. Others are losing population and tax base. A one-size-fits-all approach might work in Delaware's three counties, but not in Texas with our 254 counties. Local control is the only way to be sure local needs are met. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Gene Terry, Texas Association of Counties

Gene Terry is the Executive director of the Texas Association of Counties. The Texas Association of Counties exists as a unified voice for Texas counties, focused on promoting efficient and effective government for the people of Texas.