Smart Government

"I believe smart government policies give us more out of our government for less." - State Representative Mike Villarreal

Sometimes we tend to get lost in a debate about bigger government or smaller government, instead of focusing on a third way: smarter government.  I think of smart government as responsive, innovative, efficient and fair. These are principles we should apply across all public policy to get more out of our investments and reassure citizens that our government is truly working for them.  Achieving smart government requires ongoing analysis of not only the policies we set but the way they are carried out in the lives of real Texans.  


Responsive Government


I believe each one of has part of the truth, and when we listen to each other we get closer to understanding our public challenges and finding the solutions.  I have a simple legislative formula of listening to the concerns, experiences and aspirations of community members and then working with all sides to craft new policies. Unfortunately, our state government increasingly listens to only a few special interests that drown out the rest of the voices.  To level the playing field, I have written HB 111 to limit campaign donations to candidates for state office.  Following the redistricting debacle in our state, I also filed HB 3389 to establish an independent redistricting committee that will make our elections more competitive and elected officials more responsive.


Smart government must respond to citizens' concerns.  When we learned of abuses in the juvenile justice system, I brought together local parents of incarcerated youth, children's advocates, and state officials to work on their cases.  When the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) failed to ensure HMOs paid local homes caring for the elderly, and didn't have the workforce to quickly process food stamp applications, I pushed HHSC to fix the problems. Finally, I launched a series of workshops on the services state agencies can provide our community members.


Innovative Government


The world is moving fast, and government must keep up. By understanding the latest breakthroughs in technology and trends in our state, we can save taxpayers money and provide them with the best services available.  


As my office helps individuals trying to access state social services, we witness perhaps the greatest need for a "smarter" approach to governing.  When parents reported that it was difficult to find information about all their options for publicly supported child care and pre-k, we passed a bill to create a one-stop referral shop available online or by calling 2-1-1.


In order to reduce utility costs in schools and protect the environment, I filed HB 1824 in 2007 to encourage school districts to build new buildings with energy efficient technology.  We must develop other modern systems that reflect our changing society, such as stronger transfer system between two-year and four-year schools to serve the growing number of community college students in Texas.


Efficient Government


We must ensure our state government is always on the side of Texans. At times, we find regulations on the books that just don't work in the real world, and prevent smart efficient approaches to doing business in our state.


When conflicting state laws blocked a new nursing education program in San Antonio, I brought together the parties to find a solution.  I was successful in passing legislation to streamline the process that was preventing qualified schools from helping to address our critical shortage of registered nurses.  Leaders in an innovative San Antonio company were outraged by the red tape required to maintain their on-site child care for employees.  I teamed up with these working moms to pass legislation to make it simpler for companies like theirs to provide high-quality care and help parents who want to pursue a career, while balancing family life.


We also find that the smartest investments that will give us the most efficient return on public dollars, such as high quality early childhood care and education, don't receive the attention they need.  I'm fighting to make the most strategic use of our public investments.


Fair Government


Our state's tax system needs to be more fair. We all rely on our public roads, schools, police and other public investments, and we all expect to make fair contributions to keep them going.  Unfortunately, our property tax system includes a hidden loophole that benefits those who buy property in the shadow market that keeps property prices secret. This places middle class homeowners at a disadvantage. Appraisers have the information they need to accurately estimate the value of most homes, but not for mansions, hotels and other commercial property that is sold in the shadow market. As a result, typical homeowners pay taxes on the full value of their homes while a few lucky Texans pay on a fraction of the true value of their property.

One of my top priorities has been passing truth in valuation legislation to require the disclosure of real estate sales prices, which would give appraisers the tools they need to accurately estimate the value of these properties. The special interests who don't want to pay their fair share blocked the bill so far, but I continue working to build support and pass it. Additionally, I will continue to help block proposals to unfairly charge neighbors different taxes for identical houses.