FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 29, 2014
(512) 463-0120 office
AUSTIN — Today, the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations (IGR), chaired by Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, received its first interim charges from Lt. Governor Dewhurst. The Senate IGR Committee has been tasked with examining and studying issues on transparency, local debt and bond elections.
Chairman Hinojosa issued the following statement:
"I am pleased with the charges Lt. Governor Dewhurst has entrusted the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee to examine this interim. The transparency charge aims to save taxpayer's money, make government more efficient and help rebuild trust in government by making it more accountable.
"The second charge to examine local debt and bond elections is an important step in addressing Texas's local debt problem. Local governments in Texas have more than doubled their debt load in the past decade. That translates into $7,500 in debt for every man, woman, and child in Texas. The second charge also tasks the Senate IGR Committee with examining ways to improve disclosure of local debt and the impact of bond elections so that taxpayers can make more informed decisions.
"I look forward to convening the Senate IGR Committee to begin working on these important issues and making recommendations on how to make government more efficient, transparent, and effective."
The interim charges for the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee read:
- 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.