Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tx Lege Grapples with Online Budget Transparency and Spending Limits

Texas spends more on government than we have the ability to fund. This is a hard truth that the state legislature is grappling with this week.

This week on Thursday the Texas House Appropriations Committee will work on issues of online budget transparency - HB 2804 will allow a line by line transparency online for the public to see how and where the state budget is spent.

The bill in the state Senate is SB 1653.

Also of importance is establishing spending limits. Not one bill on spending limits has been heard in the legislature since 2007 - there were none heard during the last session.

In 1978, the Texas Tax Relief Act was put to a vote by voters as a constitutional amendment. The growth in appropriations since then has consistently increased at a rate that has outpaced the population growth of the state plus inflation.

For example, from 1990 to 2011 the total of all funds appropriated in Texas has increased 300% but population growth plus inflation was 115%.

Analysis shows that if HJR 70, and its enabling legislation HB 756, had become law in 2003, the spending limit for this biennium would be approximately $75 billion, which very closely resembles the Comptroller's Biennial Revenue Estimate for 2012-2013 .

HJR 70 will limit the growth in appropriations from state tax revenue to the rate of population increase plus monetary inflation each biennium. This portion of the budget makes up about one-half of state spending.

It is important for fiscally conservative Texans to let their legislators hear from them. We want our elected officials to stand firm and make the cuts necessary. Some conservative think tanks and organizations have come together to speak to the legislators in Austin. Three commercial ads are being launched by Texas Public Policy Foundation this week.

The coalition producing the ads is called Texans for a Conservative Budget. Aside from TPPF, member organizations include Americans for Prosperity-Texas, Americans for Tax Reform, Empower Texans, Heartland Institute, Liberty Institute and the National Federation of Independent Business-Texas. In a press release, the group urges lawmakers to pass a budget that "cuts non-essential programs, does not raise taxes or fees, and does not tap the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund."

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