The Empire Tribune recently reported on the first economic development grant made by the Stephenville city council since the passage of Prop 1 and the creation of the SEDA. According to the relevant article, the city council has voted to give $10,000 to Ranger College to help finance a job training program for employees of FMC and St. Gobain Abrasives. The relevant article, which discusses the conditions of the grant, can be found at http://www.yourstephenvilletx.com/article/20151105/NEWS/151109736.
News of the grant prompted one correspondent to wonder whether this is what the voters had in mind when they supported Prop 1, which created the SEDA, to be financed by sales tax revenue. It’s a good question, but one impossible to answer with complete certainty.
There’s no question that the voters wanted Prop 1—the election results said so. But the voters were told by Prop 1’s propagandists that it could be implemented with no tax increase and no cuts in existing services, and that the expenditures mandated by the passage of Prop 1 would be for infrastructure.
The propaganda was not legally binding on the city council, and one could argue that the statements made therein were meant to be predictions, not promises. Yet what the propaganda said can still be used as a yardstick by which to measure Prop 1’s results.
Now at least some of the propaganda has been proven true. There has been no tax increase. Yet as both The Flash and The Empire Tribune have reported, the city council did cut expenditures in other programs to free up money to be spent on Prop 1 projects, and as at least two council members have admitted, these spending cuts produced service cuts. Would the voters have supported Prop 1 had they been told to expect cuts in existing programs? We’ll never know.
And what of the promised expenditures on infrastructure? One cannot yet say t that the propaganda on this point was false. The Ranger College grant, if it goes through, is only about 2% of this year’s SEDA budget. It’s still possible that the remainder of the budget will go to increased infrastructure after all.
Yet the grant, however small it may seem, elicited another comment and question from a correspondent. “ FMC Technologies had 7.9 billion in revenue in 2014 with over a billion in operating profits,” he noted. “ Why on earth would we subsidize them?”
The bottom line is that we’re now cutting city services and giving the savings to private industry. Thanks to Prop 1, this is perfectly legal. But is it what the voters really wanted?
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.