Mayor explains positions on property taxes and presidential politics

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) – When Beto O’Rourke brought his presidential campaign to downtown Austin last month, Mayor Steve Adler gave an enthusiastic speech at his rally.

But last week, there was Adler on stage with Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana mayor who launched his 2020 campaign to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Politics reporter Phil Prazan sat down with Mayor Adler to find out more about the reasons for his change.

PHIL: You passed up not one, but two Texans in the race and decided to endorse Mayor Pete Buttigeig for president. Tell me about that decision.

ADLER: When I got elected five years ago, I was advised to reach out to the best mayors in the country and find the one or couple that I wanted to most emulate and thought I could learn from.  Having gone through that search, it turned out to be this 32 year old mayor in South Bend.  Beto and Julian I think are great. They’re wonderful people and I am friends with both of them and like them a lot. But my relationship with Pete is a little bit closer.

PHIL: A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Beto O’Rourke rally here in Austin and you introduced Beto O’Rourke. In my mind I was saying Mayor Adler is going to be on Team Beto.  Talk to me about how the process went for Mayor Pete to get you into his camp.

ADLER: Well, it was my intent to be as mayor someone who welcomed all the candidates to town. I certainly did that for Beto and was happy to do that because I also like him a lot. But I think that’s the kind of thing a mayor is supposed to do when candidates come to town calling. But then I got a call from Pete who asked me to participate in his launch, and in fact be the person who would introduce him.

PHIL: Did any other candidates court your endorsement for lack of a better word? So Mayor Pete called you. Did Beto call you? Did Julian call you?

ADLER: I’ve also had contact with many of the candidates.

PHIL: Let’s switch topics to Senate Bill 2 in the legislature now. It passed the Senate yesterday and they raised the 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent of the cap. Does that make it any better for you?

ADLER: No it does not. You know, this Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2 cut tens of millions out of the city budget and offers people in our community pennies of any measure of tax relief.  Our fixed expenses, health insurances, wages, the rent we pay on buildings, the things that exist in our existing budget, if we didn’t do anything but just adopt last year’s budget this year with those things in it, we find that we have to spend about 3.8 percent more just to keep up with inflation.

PHIL:  The big three leaders up there, Bonnen, Patrick, Abbott, they’re looking at the property tax reform and the school finance as working together. $9 billion more dollars in school finance, is that a package, that while you don’t like the property tax stuff you’d be willing to accept because of the money in school finance?

ADLER: I reject the suggestion that those two things have to be linked. You know, the fact is that the state, through its school finance laws have been pushing higher and higher the school property taxes we pay. We told you again, almost a 400 percent over the last five years.  That’s what people are feeling.

PHIL: So is it a win in the legislature if we get to the end of May and they just leave you alone? 

ADLER: The things we really need the legislature to do to ensure that our property taxes go down and our schools are good, We need them to find funding in order to do roads to fund I-35  that we just did on MoPac north. That’s the work we need our legislature to do. We don’t need the legislature micromanaging the residents of the city of Austin on the social and cultural choices that they make.

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