Last year, Hays County spent approximately $34.3 million to comply with unfunded state mandates—a payment county commissioners believe diverted taxpayer dollars away from local services and made it difficult to plan the county’s finances.
Now, the Hays County Commissioners Court, by passing a resolution, is showing their support for any state legislation that would add an amendment to the Texas Constitution which would “expressly prohibit” mandatory governmental programs on Texas counties unless the state has fully funded and disbursed the funds necessary to operate such a program.
The resolution, which was unanimously passed by the commissioners on March 12, states that Texas counties cannot reliably plan the county’s finances and necessary bond ratings when the state requires counties to comply with unfunded mandates.
“For several years, Hays County and other counties around the state have asked and pleaded with our legislators to support the passage of legislation that would prohibit these unfunded mandates on Texas counties,” said Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, who brought the resolution before the court. “And I think it’s time to say enough is enough.”
According to the resolution, “[S]ubstantial funding is mandated from county taxpayers and diverted every year from local services for the benefit of the citizens of Hays County to support these mandatory financial obligations imposed by the State of Texas.”
One of these unfunded mandates, according to the county’s auditing office, meant Hays County spent approximately $5.7 million to provide indigent health care for county jail inmates and citizens to satisfy a Texas requirement that the state did not provide funds for.
If the state continues to issue unfunded mandates, Commissioner Lon Shell said, then local taxpayers will be the ones to continue to carry the burden of covering the cost.
“If the state does what it’s done for [previous unfunded mandates]then they will just continue to tell school districts what to do without providing any funding and school districts will raise their taxes to pay for it and we’ll get that on our tax bill,” Shell said. “So I think it’s a good time for us to be discussing all of these things.”
Ingalsbe said she will be at the Texas Legislature next week to represent Hays County and she thinks it’s important to make the county’s opinion on unfunded mandates known.
“Unfunded mandates are wrong, unnecessary and they’re making us look like a bigger government with less control and I’m totally opposed to that as well,” said Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra.