Texas taxpayers were on the hook for $233.2 billion in debt in 2011, the cumulative result of spending by local and state government officials.
Local spending accounting for $192.7 billion or 83 percent of the total, has increased by more than 122 percent from $86.7 billion in 2001, according to Your Money and Local Debt, a new report by State Comptroller Susan Combs.
State debt, making up the remaining $40.5 billion, has grown by 134 percent from $17.3 billion during the same period.
Debt is rolled up by the state to finance transportation, university, housing, water and military projects. Cities, counties, school, hospital and water districts take on debt to pay for their projects.
Texas ranks fifth in the country in its combined state and local debt, $9,212 for every Texan behind New York, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The state’s per capita local debt, $7,983, is second in the country behind only New York, the report says.
As might be expected, Houston had the highest outstanding debt of any city in Texas, $13,150,526,369. Houston was followed by:
- San Antonio: $9,424,770,314
- Dallas: $6,555,273,086
- Austin: $5,315,491,444
- Fort Worth: $3,139,402,000
San Antonio, however, carried the highest per capita debt at $7,100, followed by Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth.
While the report issues no dire warning, Combs says taxpayers should be concerned that a small percentage of registered voters bothers to cast ballots for or against issuing new debt locally or statewide.
Combs proposes that ballots make clearer what projects voters are deciding on, what their debt obligation is and the total debt being carried by the governmental body asking for new funding.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.
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Photo of 'pile of debt' by flickr user msaari, used via a Creative Commons license.