Improving Debt Transparency in Bond Elections: Presented before the House Committee on Elections on Interim Charge #3
Policymakers should be concerned about the size and growth of local government debt in Texas. This was the crux of James Quintero from the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s testimony before the house Committee on Elections where he spoke on Interim Charge # 3.
Charge #3 is to: evaluate options to improve the transparency of local bond elections, including but not limited to: current processes used to educate voters about how tax dollars will be spent, the time of year bond elections are held, and the description of bond proposals on the ballot. Make appropriate legislative recommendations
A contributing factor to the growth of local government debt in Texas is that voters do not have enough information provided to them at the ballot box to make an informed decision about new debt issuances. Voters should be provided with basic fiscal facts at the ballot box to better understand how their decisions will affect their community. Another opportunity to reform the system involves requiring separate ballot propositions for large-scale, single-item projects embedded in much larger bond proposals. This would address a common tactic used to sustain and perpetuate the status quo. Finally, the Legislature should move to end the practice of “rolling polling” whereby polling locations are moved during the early voting period. This practice, either intentionally or unintentionally, is far too susceptible to abuse, allowing for local officials to target certain voting populations to achieve a predetermined outcome.