Coalition of conservative activists’ calls for consolidation of TDHCA and TSAHC

In a reprise of a plan decisively rejected by the Texas Legislature last session, a coalition of conservative public policy advocacy and lobby groups, including the Texas Tea Party is once again calling for consolidation of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs with the nonprofit corporation, the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC).

The Texans for a Conservative Budget Coalition issued a proposal Tuesday that demanded lawmakers reduce welfare spending, increase local control for public school districts, and combine or eliminate general revenue spending for several state agencies, including the housing department and the small nonprofit TSAHC.

“It is time for decisive action on an unrelenting, focused plan to reform and restructure state government…,” declared JoAnn Fleming, chair of the advisory committee to the Texas Legislature’s Tea Party Caucus at a Tuesday afternoon press conference at the State Capitol announcing the coalition’s plan. Organizations in the Texans for a Conservative Budget coalition include the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Americans for Prosperity-Texas, American Majority-Texas, Americans for Tax Reform, the Heartland Institute, and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

According to the Heartland Institute, which is based in Illinois, state spending in Texas rose 310 percent between 1990 and 2012, and the 2013 Legislature would have to include an extra $4 billion to $6 billion in the next budget to keep pace.

The advocacy group’s demands seem to mirror last session’s recommendation from Governor Perry to eliminate the state housing department and “privatize” administration of the State’s housing programs functions into an existing 30 person nonprofit corporation. That proposal would have had almost no effect on reducing State spending. Almost all the programs and administrative costs of the housing department are paid for with federal housing grants, not state funds.  The staff required to administer federal housing funds remains a largely fixed requirement and the salary structure at the nonprofit exceeds that of the State department, raising the specter of increased administrative spending.

In the face of objections to these phantom savings raised by TxLIHIS and others and coupled with questions about TSAHC administer and be accountable for the housing funds, the Legislature quickly rejected the proposal for elimination of the State housing department last legislative session.

If this ill-considered scheme is going to resurface again by the Texas Legislature in 2013, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission needs to impartially examine this proposal now and provide the members of the Legislature a factual fiscal and policy analysis on which to base their decision. The effective provision of housing for poor Texans is too important to be decided on misinformation and political rhetoric.