Former Del Rio Mayor Robert Garza is seeking the Republican Party nomination to the office of Texas House of Representatives, District 74.
“As you know, I’ve held a number of different local offices, on the school district board of trustees and the city. Through the years, I’ve become aware of different issues that affect us locally, and I know the real solution to these issue can only come from the state level. I’m at that point in my life where – I like to say that 80 percent of my kids are out of school – I have more time to dedicate to politics,” Garza said.
Garza said protection of Laughlin Air Force Base is one of his foremost priorities.
“When I was at the city, we got one grant and helped the county get another grant. One was for the entry inspection station at the base, and one was for the (flight line) sun shades. The whole concept behind the Texas Military Preparedness Commission funding is to make military installations less BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) eligible, to improve the likelihood that they not be closed, so anything we can do on the local level and with the use of state funds, to make Laughlin more attractive and competitive with other military installations throughout the country will put us at a higher ranking and improve the longevity of the base and the mission,” Garza said.
“The number of pilots we are training has gone up through the years, so there are a lot of collateral needs that arise from that. We need to protect the airspace around the base, the land use around it, improve the physical components of the base to the extent that we can,” he added. Garza said another priority is developing some measure of local control over the installation of more wind farms in Val Verde County.
“The problem with those wind farms is that they can interfere with the Air Force’s flight patterns, so, my basic premise is to do whatever is necessary that those wind farms do not in any way interfere with the mission of the base,” Garza said.
Another major issue important to District 74 is transportation.
“I feel like our area has been long neglected, and that’s the transportation issues surrounding U.S. Highway 90. We need a four-lane road between here and San Antonio. We need to be in a position where Del Rio is connected with the rest of the country and the rest of the world, both in terms of transportation and in terms of communication and technology,” he added.
As a state representative, Garza said, he would work to find for funding for those improvements.
“Improving 277 would tie us to Interstate 10, and once we’re there, we’re tied in to the rest of the country,” Garza said.
Those improvements also dovetail with future improvements under the planned Ports-to-Plains Corridor.
Garza said he believes if the transportation corridors develop as envisioned, they will benefit not only Del Rio and Eagle Pass, but the entire region.
“I think it’ll have an economically explosive effect on the area. It’s not rocket science. We just need to look at Laredo. Laredo was 60,000 to 80,000 in the late 1970s. They had a military base that closed, and they decided to focus on international trade and guess what? They have four international bridges and they make, according to their mayor, a net income of $60 million a year,” Garza said.
“We can have a similar type of increase here. What does that do for the local taxpayer? It depresses the local rate, because the profits from the bridge can go toward paying all the types of municipal services and you won’t need to go up on the city tax rate,” he said.
Among other priorities he said he would like to work on in Austin is school financing.
“You can say it a number of different ways, but the school finance structure is broken. It’s been broken from the beginning, and it’s broken because it is conceptually wrong. Basically, education is a local responsibility, i.e., local school districts have to rely on property tax revenues, so when you make the decision to finance schools through local tax revenues, you are instilling and creating disparity because you have districts that are property rich and property poor,” Garza said.
Garza said he believes school financing should be tied to the state’s sales tax.
“It’s a consumption-based tax. The people who buy more would pay more,” he said.
“I really believe we’re way past due on fixing the school finance system, so that would be another priority, and along with that, as you know, would come property tax relief for the local taxpayers,” Garza added.
Why should the voters in District 74 select him as their nominee?
“I believe that I have a wider, more diverse background. I’ve dealt with these issues in the past from different perspectives. I’ve been in local business. I’ve practiced law here for 38 years. I’ve seen how the judicial and criminal justice systems work. I’ve been involved in the school district and the city. I even have experience with the county. My father was a county commissioner for a number of years. I know what some of the county headaches are, and here in Del Rio, my brother-in-law was on the hospital board, so I’m familiar with some of the hospital issues.
“Overall, I’m better prepared to take on the job of state representative and be the voice for this district. Traditionally and historically, the state representative has seemed to limit his impact and role to the legislative sessions in Austin, and I want to expound upon that. I think that the state representative needs to be the voice, not only during the legislative sessions, but in all aspects. Whenever there’s an economic issue, a business issue, a social issue, a cultural issue, any type of issue, the state representative needs to be the voice up front, for all the people in the district,” Garza said.