84(R) - 2015
Relating to public access to boundary, financial, and tax rate information of certain political subdivisions.
A fiscal note dated April 22, 2015 anticipates a negative two-year net impact to General Revenue Related Funds of $448,000 through the biennium ending August 31, 2017.
The fiscal note adds that the Comptroller indicates a one-time technology cost of $448,000 in General Revenue Funds in fiscal year 2016 to create the database and include all required and authorized information for each county, municipality, special district, school district, junior college district,and housing authority in Texas.
The bill would make no appropriation but could provide the legal basis for an appropriation of funds to implement the provisions of the bill.
Senate Bill 309 would amend the Government Code to create the Political Subdivision Public Information Warehouse. The comptroller would have to create a database, made available on the Internet, with information regarding all active political subdivisions of the state of Texas that are authorized by the state by a general or special law to impose an ad valorem or sales and use tax or to issue bonds, notes, or other obligations.
The database would include information on the sales and use tax, and ad valorem tax rates of each political subdivision, as well as their detailed (principal and interest, year when the debt is to be paid), total amount of debt, and website and contact information.
For each subdivision, the database would also have to include information, or a link to a website providing information, on the political subdivision's boundaries, budget, current check registry, current financial audit or annual report.
The comptroller would have to update information regarding rates of taxes at least annually. The database would have to be searchable and intuitive to users. The database would be free for the public to access.
Senate Bill 309 would require that the information needed by the comptroller be transmitted by political subdivisions that have authority to issue general obligation bonds, by special purpose districts or other political subdivisions that have authority to impose a sales tax, and by the Texas Education Agency for school districts.
Vote Recommendation Notes
Senate Bill 309 would create a database, available to all Texans without fee, that would aggregate financial information from local government, taxing units and special districts in one single place.
Texas has many different political subdivisions and it can still remain difficult for anyone to find complete information regarding different subdivisions, not to mention this is not yet available in one place.
Senate Bill 309 would encourage transparency in government by creating one single place where each Texan could come and look for financial information on political subdivisions.
An additional positive effect could be that such database could encourage tax competition between subdivisions: if a Texan realized the county next to the one this individual lives in has lower tax rates, and has taken on less debt, the individual might consider moving to this county. This would favor a limited government.
For these reasons, we support Senate Bill 309.