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In Central Texas, Educating Voters About New District

Central Texas got a new GOP-friendly state House district in the redistricting process. And as is the case in all newly created districts, candidates don’t just have to campaign — they also have to educate voters about the change. Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports.

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Cedar Park City Council member Tony Dale says creating District 136 should have been easy. It's a compact district with voters who share similar views.

Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News

"It's a lot of young families with kids,” said Dale, who's running for the seat. “So they're concerned about transportation getting down to work. They're worried about the economy, and they're concerned about schools, too."

As is the case with all newly created districts, candidates in this area don’t just have to campaign — they also have to educate voters about the change.

“A lot of the people I've talked to were not even aware of it actually,” said candidate Paul Matthews, the finance manager of the Travis County Sheriff's Office. “Part of my campaigning effort has been to extend the knowledge that there is a brand-new district out there."

Both Matthews and Dale oppose tax increases as a way to plug budget holes in 2013.

When it comes to funding for public schools, Dale believes District 136 residents want more money flowing to classrooms, but that should come from cutting administrative overhead, not raising taxes.

"Today we've got a ratio of how many students can be in a class,” Dale said. “Maybe we need a ratio that says how many administrators you can have as well."

Matthews says that when it comes to transportation, it’s an issue of spending more than cuts. The Texas Department of Transportation says it will soon be out of money for new roads. Matthews points to $6 million earmarked for bike lanes in Austin.

“When you start hearing about projects like that, and as you amalgamate them across the state, I think that argument starts to fall on some deaf ears," Matthews said.

Dale agrees that TxDOT needs to better prioritize projects and perhaps even change its overall function.

"I think when you look at TxDOT itself, it shouldn't have as many engineers as it has today,” Dale said. “I don't think they should be in the business of building roads. They need to manage road projects and make them go much quicker."

Dale says Williamson County has worked to fund its own road projects, even ones the state was obligated to pay for, because if the county had waited on state funding, voters would still be waiting for new roads.

The primary is May 29.

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