LTTE: Don’t Repeal “Rev Cap”

Dear BJP Editorial Board:

Paying down the city’s General Fund (GO) Debt and unfunded pension liability does not require eliminating the City Charter Rev Cap spending limit.

The City Charter Rev Cap requirement does not limit how much revenue the city can take in, it controls how much money the city can spend without having to provide a Rebate to taxpayers or asking their permission to keep and spend excess revenue. This is essentially the same requirement as the state’s property tax rollback law that limits how much property tax revenue the city can take in without voter approval. Providing taxpayers with a rebate is not a new idea. Every year the federal government and some states rebate millions to taxpayers.

The people talking about eliminating the Rev Cap requirement seem to have forgotten about the state’s property tax rollback requirement or they are simply using eliminating the Rev Cap as a straw man to increase the city’s tax rate and fees.

Instead of talking about eliminating the city’s Rev Cap, city leaders need to be developing thoughtful and innovative ideas for cutting city operating expenses, modernizing city government and developing a long term business plan to increase city revenue without raising the tax rate and fees.

Houston needs to expand our tax base, NOT increasing our tax rate or fees. Houston needs more private commercial and industrial development inside the city limits. We also need to attract more tourists to Houston and our region by legalizing gaming and expanding light rail to Hobby Airport and building commuter rail out the 290 corridor and to the Woodlands, Pearland, Sugar Land and Missouri City. Doing these things will help increase sales tax revenue.

Carroll G. Robinson is an Associate Professor of Public Administration. He is a former At-Large Houston City Council Member and a past Chairman of the Houston Citizens Chamber of Commerce. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund.

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  1. Foolish Memo says

    How about decreasing spending? What a novel idea. Lite rail has done for Detroit and Chicago what has sent everyone here. Why on earth would anyone in their right mind want to duplicate that nightmare?

    • Ross says

      OK, great idea. What, specifically, are you going to cut? What services are you willing to do without? Police? Fire? Libraries? Roads? Don’t waffle and blather about “fraud and waste”, be specific, or go away. I am tired of people spouting crap about cutting spending without having the guts to go through the budget and come up with specific, meaningful cuts. Keep in mind that the City has a number of legal and contractual obligations coming due, pension costs are going up and are legally required to be paid, and that past administrations have put off making required payments.

      As a start, I would like to see the tax abatements for residential development Downtown disappear.

      Keep in mind that the City of Houston doesn’t pay for transit. That’s a Metro thing. And, don’t confuse County expenditures with City items.

  2. Paul Kubosh says

    How about we don’t build an $800,000,000 justice center. That is exactly what they are talking about doing right under your nose.

  3. Paul Kubosh says

    Ross, they could have saved over a $100,000,000 this year from spending but chose not to. That was extra money over last year that could r saved but chise not to. Say what you want but those are the facts.

    • Ross says

      Paul, I didn’t say the City couldn’t save some money, just that people who are complaining ought to start listing what they want to cut, rather than blather on in generalities. You say there is $100 million they could have cut. Care to be specific on that?

  4. George Scott says

    I am just impressed that BJP has an editorial board. That’s way more participation than I allow!

  5. Fred Flickinger says

    For specific spending cuts look at the City web site “Mayor’s Office Divisions and Directors”. There are 34 department heads, simply reading their titles makes it painfully obvious there is plenty to cut. I would start with the “Office of Sustainability” and continue working my down the list of non-essential functions.

    • Ross says

      That one caught my eye, as did the Education Initiatives guy. I need to look at the detailed budget to get a handle on what the costs of those departments actually are.

  6. Paul Kubosh says

    Ross: I listened to the budget hearings and it they had if I remember correctly somthing like 186,000,000 in new revenue. Around 86,000,000 of that had to be spent on obligations that had to be paid and the rest went to increased budgets. All the had to do is freeze it at last years numbers not cut it just freeze it. They didn’t do it. There cutting necessary this budget they had the extra money to save. Its was real pathetic.

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