Austin-area legislators talk transportation, local control and property tax reform

Real Estate Council of Austin hosted a forum with area State House Reps. John Cyrier, R Bastrop (second from left); Celia Israel, D-Austin; Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin; and Paul Workman, R-Austin, on Tuesday in downtown Austin. Real Estate Council of Austin hosted a forum with area State House Reps. John Cyrier, R Bastrop (second from left); Celia Israel, D-Austin; Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin; and Paul Workman, R-Austin, on Tuesday in downtown Austin.[/caption]

Four Austin-area state House representatives spent lunch Tuesday talking about major legislative issues, including transportation initiatives, local versus state control, and property tax reform as part of a monthly Real Estate Council of Austin event.

Here is how State House Reps. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin; Paul Workman, R-Austin; Celia Israel, D-Austin; and John Cyrier, R-Bastrop, reacted to some of the main topics discussed during the forum:


• Whether any more money will be dedicated to transportation this session after $5 billion was allocated to state mobility projects two years ago:

“I don’t really see any new major funding sources coming down," Workman said. "We need to make sure the dollars that are there wind up where they are needed.”

“[Texas Department of Transportation wants] 150 FTEs (full-time employees)—I see everyone rolling their eyes on that one—even I am,” Israel said. “Their argument is that we’re getting more money to get more projects, and we need more staff to oversee those projects. ... There’s no political wind there to make that happen.”

• In response to whether rail service will reemerge as a potential transportation solution:

“Seeing all these different propositions go down, I can only guess that the problem is that the plan isn’t good enough," Rodriguez said. "Every time I talk to people, they want to see congestion relieved, but there just doesn’t seem to be a plan that people can get behind.”

Local control

• In response to repeated efforts to enact a statewide texting ban on Texas roadways:

“We can’t seem to pass a statewide ban on texting—I don’t know why, it's very disappointing—and those against it claim they want local control," Israel said. "We as a state refuse to step up to the plate and enact a statewide ban in Texas.”

“There are reasons why the state needs to get involved when cities and counties do something, and texting is a good example," Workman said. "We have numerous city ordinances out there. … You don’t know if it’s OK to text at a stop light. Some cities it’s OK, in some cities it is not.”

• Whether a statewide bill regulating ride-hailing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, should overrule city of Austin regulations enacted in 2016:

"[Any proposal this legislative session] adds a ton of bureaucracy for my colleagues who typically don’t like government control," Rodriguez said. "The trouble for me is the idea they want to overturn what the Austin voters—not the City Council, but the voters—chose."

Property tax reform

• Whether to pursue a proposal to require a special election any time a governmental entity's effective property tax rate increases beyond 4 percent:

“We can cut taxes and do things that help spur growth and create more jobs and help us bring up that revenue base, but if we’re spending it faster than we can rake it in then we’re going to continue to have issues,” Cyrier said.

“We have experienced a lot of growth, and it is stressing out our system. … So we spend a lot on education, but compared to other states we’re right in the middle on student spending,” Israel said. “I just don’t believe Texas has owned up to its responsibilities. … I don’t want to limit cities’ ability to step up to the plate for themselves where the state would not for them.”

“You can talk about capping this and lowering taxes here and there, but there’s a cost to that, and we have to be real about what that cost is. And if we’re OK with that, then OK,” Rodriguez said. “Limiting local spending is going to have an impact on your school district and your college district.”

By Joe Lanane

Joe Lanane’s career is rooted in community journalism, having worked for a variety of Midwest-area publications before landing south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2011 as the Stillwater News-Press news editor. He arrived at Community Impact Newspaper in 2012, gaining experience as editor of the company’s second-oldest publication in Leander/Cedar Park. He eventually became Central Austin editor, covering City Hall and the urban core of the city. Lanane leveraged that experience to become Austin managing editor in 2016. He managed eight Central Texas editions from Georgetown to San Marcos. Working from company headquarters, Lanane also became heavily involved in enacting corporate-wide editorial improvements. In 2017, Lanane was promoted to executive editor, overseeing editorial operations throughout the company. The Illinois native received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his journalism master’s degree from Ball State University.


Dripping Springs has received two grants from the Texas Department of Transportation to complete sidewalk improvements projects. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dripping Springs receives $2.8 million in TxDOT grants for local sidewalk projects

Projects will include work along Rob Shelton Boulevard and that will connect Dripping Springs Middle and High schools.

A photo of the Dripping Springs ISD board of trustees
Dripping Springs ISD presents on growth, debt ahead of regular board meeting

Dripping Springs ISD ranks 14th for debt among comparable districts.

Early voting for the March 3 primary elections began Feb. 18. (Community Impact Newspaper)
Southwest Austin 2020 Primary Election Guide

Find out which candidates will be on Southwest Austin ballots.

State Sen. Kirk Watson announced his resignation from state government Feb. 18. A number of local politicians have expressed interest in the seat.
Who is interested in Kirk Watson’s Senate seat? Here is where local members of the state House stand

State Reps. Gina Hinojosa and Eddie Rodriguez say they are "seriously considering" a run for the District 14 seat.

Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz addresses the media on Feb. 20 after announcing plans to resign.
Outgoing Superintendent Paul Cruz says 'work will continue' in Austin ISD as transition plan is developed

A timeline for Cruz's departure has not yet been established by Austin ISD.

Austin taps downtown homeless shelter operator to expand permanent supportive housing program

Experts hold up permanent supportive housing as crucial to ending chronic homelessness.

Gold's Gym now open on South Congress near Slaughter Lane

Gold's Gym opened its new South Austin location in late January.

Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet now open on Stassney Lane

The Texas restaurant chain offers a lunch and dinner buffet.

54th Street Grill is expected to open a South Austin location in 2021. (Courtesy 54th Street Grill)
54th Street Grill planning South Austin location

54th Street Grill will open a South Austin location in 2021.

A photo of young adults creating artwork.
Cordovan Art School & Pottery Parlor to open new location in Southwest Austin

The new art school will open on West Hwy. 290 on March 1.

Velocity Credit Union will break ground on a Dripping Springs location this year

Construction will begin on a new Velocity Credit Union branch this summer.

Back to top