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City sets forth 2013 state legislative priorities
The city and McKinney Chamber of Commerce have nearly settled on their priorities for the upcoming state legislative session.
The 2013 Public Relations Intergovernmental Legislative (PRIL) agenda was presented to the City Council on Tuesday, with hopes of garnering further ideas or priorities to bring to the Texas Legislature's attention in January. The document's overriding focus: economic development.
"Whatever issue we get into in terms of specifics, we want to continue to promote local control over how our tax dollars are managed and how we manage projects in McKinney," Mayor Brian Loughmiller said. "Whether you're talking about economic development, education, transportation, health care - whatever items we ultimately decide to pass in form of legislative agenda - the most important thing is to make sure our representatives understand we believe it's in our best interests that we retain local control."
Upon the document reads the PRIL Committee's general goal to oppose "legislation that impedes upon the protection of local control and/or creates unfunded mandates." Its five priority subsets are economic development, education and workforce, transportation, taxes and spending, and water - each with related projects the city needs the state's help in continuing or accomplishing.
The economic development section promotes continued freedom for spending 4A/4B sales tax revenue, through which the city uses a half-cent of taxes both for economic and community development. Retaining control of the 4A/4B funds as it sees fit, without restrictions, is an ongoing battle for the city, said Aretha Adams, assistant to the city manager.
"A lot of this is what we had a couple of years ago," Adams told the council of the agenda items. "But these are the areas that we have in common (with the chamber), and the things that we want to advocate together on."
Education goals for the state include restoring the $5.4 billion in funding cuts to public schools and replacing the current funding system with an "adequate and equitable based system for all schools," the agenda says. The PRIL Committee is also urging the state toward increased community college support as a means for workforce training. Councilman Roger Harris expressed that he'd like that particular item to delve even deeper.
"I'm not so sure this council shouldn't take a very aggressive, ambitious posture with Collin College and really get behind their efforts to become a four-year university," he told the council Tuesday. "This would be a good point to start getting behind them (and) seeing what we can do to further their initiatives."
The committee's transportation objectives are centered on specific road projects that could enhance McKinney from a mobility and economic development standpoint. Such infrastructure priorities include those already voiced to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT): the Farm-to-Market (FM) 546 replacement for better access to the Collin County Regional Airport; lane additions to sections of Virginia Parkway; widening Stacy Road between Ridge Road and Sam Rayburn Tollway; and Highway 5 enhancements.
The agenda also stresses the importance of the Texas State Water Plan, which recently projected that the state's water supplies will have decreased by 10 percent while its population will have grown by 82 percent by 2060. Supporting stringent conservation measures and developing new reservoirs should be top priorities, the agenda says.
The city and chamber created the committee in 2008 to advocate at the state level. Last legislative session, they procured a consultant to stay in Austin, someone to "make sure our agenda is being pushed forward," Adams said.
The consultant costs the city and chamber each $2,500 a month - a worthwhile investment in city officials' eyes because it gives them constant, on-site access to legislative actions and plans.
Adams said it often takes other cities with similar agendas for the desired effect.
"We think it makes in impact because legislators there are hearing 'city of McKinney.' It's better to stay on their radar," she said. "We need to make sure we're proactive and not reactive."
Some of the agenda's effect can be realized during the legislative session through bills passed or killed, and others during interim rule-making after the session, Adams said. Last year's push to keep 4A/4B funds unrestricted was successful, and the city hopes to continue that push every year if needed.
The council will likely vote on this year's consultant and its contract, as well as the PRIL agenda, on Dec. 4. While the general focus should remain constant, specific issues could shift as 2013 progresses.
"This certainly can be kind of a work in progress as we go through the legislative session," City Manager Jason Gray said. "This can be amended at any time...so I'd just look at it as a living document."