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County takes stance on unfunded mandates

Commissioners Court
Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A resolution opposing unfunded state mandates for Texas counties gained unanimous support in the Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday.

The court approved a resolution supporting legislation or an amendment to the Texas Constitution prohibiting the state from imposing further unfunded mandates on county governments in Texas. 

“Can we have that resolution read?” Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe asked before the court’s vote. “I think it’s very telling.”

The resolution, which was read aloud, cites numerous state requirements for which “substantial funding is mandated from county taxpayers and diverted every year from local services” in Hays County. Those mandatory expenses for Hays County in the most recent fiscal year included, according to the resolution, almost $1 million to support the appointment of attorneys in criminal cases, more than $580,000 to “support and maintain state prisoners in county jails pending transfer to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice,” more than $7 million to fund the state judicial system, more than $5.6 million for indigent health care of county jail inmates and citizens; and nearly $1.5 million to support adult probation and juvenile probation. 

Ingalsbe thanked the county auditor’s office for doing the math to find out how much county money goes toward items mandated by the state.

“It’s over $34 million Hays County is spending, which equals 43.8 percent of our county tax rate,” Ingalsbe said. “That’s just incredible.”

Ingalsbe said that counties have asked the state legislature for years to prohibit unfunded mandates.

“I think it’s time to say enough is enough,” she said. “ … I’ll be up at the Texas Legislature next week to talk about this and other items that affect our county. I think this is extremely important for us to send a message to the legislature.”

The other commissioners voiced their support for the measure, and Precinct 3 Commissioner Lon Shell noted Ingalsbe’s experience with this issue.

“She probably knows as much about this issue as anyone you’re going to find,” he said.

County Judge Ruben Becerra also voiced support for the resolution.

“Unfunded mandates are wrong, unnecessary, and they make us look like a bigger government with less control,” he said.

The resolution states that “it is in the best interest of Texas counties and their taxpayers to support and favor passage of legislation in the form of an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Texas that would expressly prohibit the imposition of a mandatory governmental program on Texas counties, whether by an act of the Texas Legislature or a state agency or by executive order, unless the State of Texas has fully funded and disbursed all necessary funds to enable Texas counties to operate said governmental program.”