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For Immediate Release

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May 28, 2013

Comptroller Susan Combs Announces “Tell the Truth Texas” — a Revealing Look at Local Government Finance

(AUSTIN) — Comptroller Susan Combs today announced the creation of a new Web resource, “Tell the Truth Texas” (www.tellthetruthtexas.org) that will collect an unprecedented array of information on the debt and finances of local governments throughout Texas.

“We see a real need for this,” Combs said. “Texans have every right to know and understand the finances of the local governments that levy taxes and issue debt in their names.

“It’s particularly important given the 2013 Legislature’s failure to enact substantive transparency legislation for local government. One promising bill, House Bill 14 (HB 14), was defeated by a parliamentary maneuver; it was defeated again as Senate Bill 14 (SB 14) on another parliamentary technicality in the House.

“We’ve been working to bring greater transparency to Texas government for six and a half years. The loss of HB 14 and SB 14 was disappointing, but our commitment stands. We won’t be discouraged.”

The Comptroller held 40 town hall meetings across the state last fall, and in each town she heard concerns regarding government spending and debt in addition to the lack of available information about it.

“It is vital that we get this information into the hands of taxpayers in an accessible way, and the Internet is the new town square,” Combs said.

“The need for transparency information on local governments is particularly urgent given their spiraling debt. Texas has the nation’s second-highest local debt on a per capita basis. Local debt totaled a staggering $195.8 billion at the end of fiscal 2012,” Combs said.

Unfortunately, much of the most useful information on local debt and finance is buried or simply unavailable.

“You need this information to give you context when you’re asked to approve more debt in the voting booth,” she said. “Hundreds of local governments have been forthcoming with financial information, opening their books to the taxpayers, and we’ve recognized them with our Leadership Circle awards. But others apparently prefer to keep you in the dark.

“In the coming months, Tell the Truth Texas is going to collect every bit of data we can find on local finance, so that you can make informed decisions about how your money is spent,” Combs said. “And we’d like your help. We’re asking Texans to send us anything they can find on their local governments’ debt and financial condition. We’ll publish everything that’s pertinent.”

Visit www.tellthetruthtexas.org to sign up for email updates, submit information, and learn more about local government finances in our state. To learn about the Comptroller’s Leadership Circle, visit http://www.texastransparency.org/local/leadership.php.

Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/telltheTruthTexas.

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