County looks to state to pay for unfunded mandates

Roughly $34.3 million in unfunded mandates will go unpaid by Hays County after commissioners March 12 passed a resolution pushing for state officials to foot the bill. 

Hays County Commissioners, who approved the resolution by a 5-0 vote, argued Texas counties cannot responsibly plan annual budgets while the state issues unfunded mandates and budget changes during each legislative session.

The county currently pays for at least 10 unfunded mandates that are required by Texas. Those mandates cover services such as the appointment of criminal attorneys, attorneys for Child Protective Services cases, funding for the state judicial system and the county jail.

Commissioners said they hope to see the state provide funding for those required services.

Hays County Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said Hays and other Texas counties have communicated concerns about the cost of those programs for years, but now have the numbers to show the toll it’s taking on their budgets. During the 2017 legislative session, Ingalsbe said a bill mirroring the county’s resolution made it through the Texas House but not the Senate.

“I think it’s time to say that enough is enough,” Ingalsbe said. “We’ve tried for many years now. If they want us to provide those services, they need to provide the funding.”

Ingalsbe said she plans to return to the legislature to promote the passage of this resolution statewide.

“I think this puts into perspective where our county tax dollars go,” said Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell.

Commissioners said they are not in favor of a state income tax to solve the problem. Shell said if taxes increase at all, they should increase at the local level where voters have more control.

“I don’t think we want to go to a system where we allow our state, or someone that is in a higher authority, to decide what it is that we’re paying and what we’re paying for,” Shell said.

County Judge Ruben Becerra said he is opposed to unfunded mandates and said he believes the mandates are unfair and unnecessary.

“They make us look like a bigger government with less control,” Becerra said.

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