Providing transparency regarding use of public tax dollars and debt entered into by local and state governing entities is essential to ensure accountability of government in a democratic society. One of my ongoing goals throughout my time in the Legislature has been to help provide taxpayers more information about their local and state government and about how their money is spent. In order to enable citizens to make informed decisions about their government, we must make sure there is adequate information available about where and how government spends money.
Monitoring how your tax dollars are being spent is currently difficult to do. The average Texan lives in at least two taxing districts (the county and the local school district). It is almost more common however, that a person lives in as many as five taxing districts. For example, a person may be simultaneously subject to taxation in a county, a school district, a municipal utility district, an emergency service district, and a hospital district.
I have filed several bills that address the issue of transparency and provide citizens with more accessible information about their government and taxing districts.
One bill that addresses this issue is Senate Bill 843. This bill recognizes the need for more transparency and creates a streamlined process to access financial information about local governments. SB 843 requires the Comptroller to aggregate tax information, financial reports, debt information, and contact information for all local governing bodies with taxing authority and to develop a searchable database for individuals to find that information. Currently, there is no state agency that aggregates this financial information.
SB 843 was drafted in conjunction with the Comptroller's office and will create a one-stop-shop for local government financial information. Last year, Comptroller Susan Combs published the report Your Money and the Taxing Facts and produced an internet site that has interactive maps of all 254 counties, listing the number of taxing districts in each county and the per capita tax burden for the average taxpayer. This website is located at: texastransparency.org/yourmoney/localtax/levies.php.
I filed this bill because many individuals are interested in being able to easily search for their local government financial information. Improving access to this information will enable citizens to more easily keep track of how their tax dollars are spent and will promote additional local government transparency.
Ken Paxton, a practicing attorney from McKinney, was first elected to the Texas Senate in 2012 after serving five terms in the Texas House of Representatives. His district includes the majority of Collin County, including Allen, Frisco, McKinney, Plano and Richardson, and part of Dallas County.