News » The QueQue

Failure to invest in Census ensures more taxation w/o representation


Greg Harman

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If Americans were still interested in a portion of representation with their inevitable taxation, you would think we'd have wrapped up this Census business by now. Yet as of Monday only 37 percent of Alamo City residents had returned their forms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Those numbers were even worse in some Valley cities.

Laredo was reporting only 27-percent returns; Brownsville was way down at 25 percent. Not that any of us should be surprised. Texas is regularly undercounted, and pays for it in the lighter return of federal taxes sent back to the state for things like road work, new schools and libraries, and health care programs.

Our Census numbers are also used in the creation of political districts and apportioning of Congressional seats. Another shortchange on both counts will particularly punish Valley residents, where there has been such dynamic growth these past years.

Back in 2000, Texas was the second highest undercounted state in the nation and lost claim to an estimated $1 billion of our tax dollars for it. Now Census Bureau Director is expressing “concern” about our low numbers. Well, we should all be feeling a little sick.

State Rep. Mike Villarreal wrote Texas Governor Rick Perry more than four months ago to try to muster state resources behind the Census push. Specifically, Villarreal urged Perry to back the creation of a “complete count” committee and use the resources of state agencies to get the Census message out to hard-to-count populations like the “elderly, children, minorities, renters and low-income.” Perry didn't respond to the letter.

`For more on that, you can read my March 4 blog post and listen to my interview with Anna Alicia Romero, regional census director for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.`

It's sort of despicable. I mean, what does Perry possibly stand to gain from another massive undercount that shortchanges the border-county populations that have boomed over the last 10 years? Hmm. What, indeed?

So, consider this a gentle reminder to mail your form today ... Okay, tomorrow, if you really need to get your head clear for the task. Just remember it's only two days until 2010's deadline, folks! The fewer door-knockers the Census has to employ, the more ka-ching we're gonna hear, so sayeth these federal enumerators.

For every percentage point increase in mail response, taxpayers will save an estimated $85 million in federal funds. Those funds would otherwise be required to send census takers to collect census responses in person from households that don't mail back the form. After the 2000 Census, the Census Bureau was able to return $305 million in savings to the federal Treasury because mail rates exceeded expectations â?? a move the Census Bureau would like to repeat in 2010.


Some of the cities in Texas with low mail participation rates as of Monday, March 29, 2010, are listed below, along with the Mail Participation Rates they ultimately achieved in 2000:

Brownsville = 25% (Census 2000 = 63%)
Laredo = 27% (Census 2000 = 63%)
Austin = 33% (Census 2000 = 68%)
Houston = 33% (Census 2000 = 64%)
San Antonio = 37% (Census 2000 = 72%)

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