CS mayor on tensions with legislature: "Can I get a gas reimbursement for all my trips to Austin?"

"Elected officials at the local level hear best and know best what their constituents are looking for," said College Station Mayor Karl Mooney on First News at Four.

Yet state lawmakers claim the same thing, that they are most in-tune with their constituents needs.

This tension has led to what the Texas Tribune reports as a "fever pitch" of built-up disagreements between local officials, like mayors, and state legislators.

Mooney says that for all the times he's traveled to Austin this legislative session to advocate for bills he believes would benefit residents, he has rarely felt heard.

"Can I get a gas reimbursement for all my trips to Austin?" said Mooney with a wry laugh.

Mooney says he's concerned it's a trend indicative of a larger goal of state leaders. He references a 2018 speech in which Gov. Greg Abbott indicated that he would like to see "home rule" cities like College Station move to a more "general law" system, following state laws and not creating locally specific ordinances.

"And not have the authority to truly govern ourselves," said Mooney.

The battle over property tax reform is Mooney's oft-used example. His advocacy in Austin is for local control over property tax rates, while legislators in Austin are focused on legislation that would cap increases and submit them to voter approval.

Both Mooney (plus many fellow mayors) and the state lawmakers claim their plan is best for their constituents. So where is the disconnect?

"I think the disconnect is when you start using the word 'tax,'" said Mooney. "There are certain taxes that folks will simply react to and say 'Oh my property taxes are going up,' but they don't really consider the sources of those taxes."

Mooney uses school funding as an example, pointing out that that public education used to be funded more than 50 percent by the state, and now that number stands at around 35 percent.

"This decline means that the average property owner anywhere in Texas sees more than 54 percent of their property taxes are school taxes," said Mooney.

For Mooney and fellow members of the Texas Municipal League, the issue is bigger than just one piece of legislation.

"It's a bit ironic: if you ask any of our state legislators, they will say they don't want Washington telling them how to run the state," Mooney said. "And yet, here we have the state trying to tell the municipalities how to run themselves."

For the full conversation with Mooney from First News at Four, see the video player above.