Over the past few years, property valuations in Williamson County have increased at a much faster rate than individual income growth. The catalyst for this phenomenon has been a combination of events, including: a migration of people to Central Texas from other parts of the United States, individuals fleeing the high tax burden of Travis County, and a Federal Reserve policy that has kept interest rates at near zero percent for eight years—which has inflated all real asset prices, including homes.
Consequently, as the property tax base has expanded, the budgets of most local government entities (including Williamson County) have grown at rates exceeding population growth and inflation over the past 15-20 years.
As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®), I am greatly concerned about this phenomenon, since home price appreciation cannot continue at its recent clip (in perpetuity) nor will interest rates remain at zero forever. When a reset in interest rates occurs, property values will likely decline and County Commissioners must be cognizant of this possibility.
To combat this phenomenon, I believe the Texas Legislature must take action to lower the cap on annual homestead price appreciation from the current 10% rate to a much lower rate, preferably around 5%. As County Commissioner, I will fight to hold the county's effective tax rate at or near its current level so that increasing property values do not consume an increasing amount of an individual's income. I would also support a homestead exemption; however, I realize that this is only a temporary solution since any initial tax savings would be quickly eliminated if home values continue to rise.
Transportation and Traffic Congestion
The largest transportation issue facing the citizens of Precinct 1 is the ability to get into and out of the City of Austin, especially during rush-hour traffic. Unfortunately, this will be a difficult problem to fix given the intransigence of most Austin city leaders as well as the Travis County Commissioners Court to support any new road construction or expansion.
That said, in southern Williamson County, we must look at fixing those areas where traffic tie-ups occur on a daily basis, including the SH 45 toll merge onto I-35 North, the confluence of traffic that creates delays along I-35 South between US 79 and Hester's Crossing, as well as the perpetual backups along US 183. In addition, we must work with the city of Austin and the State of Texas to improve traffic flow along Parmer Lane.
On the issue of US 183, I would oppose the construction of a single toll lane between Mopac and SH 45. Instead of spending $650 million-plus on this project (assuming the project comes in at budget only so drivers can pay perpetual variable tolls), regional transportation resources would be better dedicated to fixing the causes of the major delays on this stretch of highway, such as eliminating the sudden merge from northbound Mopac to 183 North as well as adding free lanes in sections of US 183 where this is feasible.
Additionally, I believe Williamson County must continue to be forward-looking—acquiring rights-of-way now where growth will occur 20-50 years out. In the long run, this will save county taxpayers millions and it will ensure that we do not run into the same sorts of congestion issues currently plaguing Austin.
Finally, as Commissioner, I pledge to lead an effort to fix the chip-and-seal debacle that has created a major nuisance on many of the secondary roads in most of our neighborhoods.
Saving Brushy Creek Trails
I vehemently oppose the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) plan to install high-tension power lines anywhere along the Brushy Creek Regional Trail along Brushy Creek or Hairy Man Roads. In fact, I would contend that this proposal ranks up there as one of the most short-sighted ideas conceived by any government bureaucrat in a long time.
Over the past 20-plus years, the taxpayers of Williamson County have spent millions of dollars developing and maintaining this regional trail. It makes zero sense for another quasi-governmental entity to come in and eliminate a significant portion of the tree canopy along this trail to install power lines.
I understand our area's population growth requires the installation of new power lines and substations to meet peak power demand. However, I believe that expansion of any transmission system should be designed to minimize the impact on public parkland, especially when the LCRA controls other rights-of-way that would have far less impact on this area.
If elected Commissioner, I will press for a plan that minimizes the impact on the Brushy Creek Regional Trail system. However, if the LCRA remains obstinate in its belief that this transmission line must go through a large section of our parklands, I would support the use of county resources to take actions to stop the project along any proposed route through the heart of our trail system.
I believe that life begins at the moment of conception and that it is the duty of government to protect life—a belief that is clearly stated in our Declaration of Independence.
As your County Commissioner, I will oppose the use of any federal, state or county tax money to fund abortion services, and I will encourage our state legislature to pass laws to ensure that taxpayer funds are not utilized to pay for any elective abortion.
2nd Amendment/Gun Ownership Rights
The 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is very clear on the issue of gun ownership: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
As a supporter of our Constitutional rights, I will oppose any effort to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens from owning or possessing any legal firearm.
Protecting the United Sates border is the responsibility of the federal government. Unfortunately, our federal elected officials have done little to secure our porous border.
If elected County Commissioner, I will strongly encourage our next sheriff to continue the practice of honoring ICE detainer warrants and to always work with federal immigration officers to uphold existing immigration laws. In addition, I will make sure that mechanisms are in place to ensure that all persons working for Williamson County (either as employees or contractors) are legally authorized to work in the United States.