Diverting public funds to private use is illegal

The SE Texas Record Sep. 8, 2015, 8:20am


“Use of taxpayer funds should be reserved for purely public purposes, not the private benefit of an individual, corporation, or association.”

That's the first sentence of a position paper published this summer by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Who can argue with that? It's so obvious, so reasonable that it seems unnecessary to say it. You have to wonder what loopy citizens in what loony state would be so foolish as to permit taxpayer funds to be diverted to private use.

Texans would never put up with an outrage like that, or would we? Apparently, we would. The CEI position paper is entitled “A Remedy for the Lone Star State’s Taxpayer Giveaway to Unions.” Its second sentence notes that “Texas public employee unions, which are officially private organizations, receive a direct subsidy from local governments in the form of release time, a practice that allows public employees to conduct union business during working hours without loss of pay.”

The remedy is revealed in the paper's subtitle, “Time to Enforce Texas Constitution’s Bar on Taxpayer Subsidies to Private Parties.” Using public funds to subsidize private activities is not only foolish. It's illegal. CEI points out that “several provisions in the Texas constitution, known as 'gift clauses,' ban government subsidies that primarily benefit private entities.”

“Activities performed on release time by public employees often conflict with taxpayers’ interests, and may even force taxpayers to fund political activity they oppose,” CEI charges. “For example, public employees on release time often lobby elected officials to support specific legislation. Public employee unions generally support more government spending, which leads to more government hiring and more potential union members.”

According to CEI, Texans have at least three options for ending this noxious practice: taxpayers can file suit “challenging this unnecessary government expense,” the state legislature can “prohibit the practice,” and local Texas governments can “stop negotiating release time into collective bargaining agreements.”

The state legislature and affected local governments should end the wrong and wasteful practice or taxpayers will have to sue to make it happen. Then the taxpayers additionally would be burdened with paying taxpayer dollars for the lawyer fees of government bodies defending the wrongful practice. All which means the taxpayers would have to pay double for the constitution to be followed.

That makes no sense.

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