Unfunded Mandates Strain City Coffers

Houston Mayor Annise Parker met with a panel this week to discuss unfunded mandates imposed on cities by the state of Texas. The mayor was appointed to examine the issue by Governor Rick Perry. Laurie Johnson reports.

The governor asked Mayor Parker to work with other civic leaders across the state to examine the impact of unfunded mandates on Texas cities.

Parker says the task force will release a list of issues to the legislature in the hope that lawmakers will minimize the financial burden placed on cities.

And for a city the size of Houston, that burden can be significant.

“Twenty-four million dollars…the collection of state court costs, where the state tacks on a fine when someone comes through municipal court. And they actually get their amount before the city does, so if someone comes up short the state is made whole, but the city has to pay for the collection and doesn’t get reimbursed.”

Another item was a state requirement to provide back-up generators at all water plants. That translates to a $56 million price tag for Houston.

“I appreciate the governor’s interest in this. Now he may not be as excited when I talk about what I consider a possible unfunded mandate depending on how the immigration bills play out. Anything that causes a requirement for me to divert police resources to immigration enforcement would be an unfunded mandate that would be hugely expensive to the city of Houston. But we’ll see how those bills play out going forward.”

Houston Councilmember Mike Sullivan is also on the governor’s task force. The group will offer recommendations to the governor later this month on how the legislature may be able to alleviate the burden of unfunded mandates.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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