With Texas voters strongly backing the idea, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are making a concerted push this week for a strict, constitutional spending limit in place. And Mr. Dewhurst spelled out why it’s important: taxpayers aren’t protected when simply counting on politicians to do the right thing.Strictly limiting the growth of government has been one of the signature policy goals of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and the conservative movement for more than a decade. In initiating the Texas Budget Compact legislative package this spring, Gov. Rick Perry prioritized spending limits right after declaring there would be no pursuit of new taxes. (Check out the Taxpayer Protection Pledge for more information there.)
Predictably, the Texas Democratic Party is against spending limits.
At an event in Houston on Tuesday, the state’s top two elected officials promoted the need for a strict limitation.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Mr. Dewhurst quipped that “contrary to what some of you all may think, Governor Perry and I won’t be here forever.” (While Mr. Perry is the state’s longest-serving governor, Mr. Dewhurst would need to serve another six years to match the 18-year record set by the late Bill Hobby.)
Setting the joke aside, his point is right on the mark. Taxpayers get no protection when being forced to rely on politicians to protect us from government reaching ever-deeper into our pockets.
From 1990 to 2010, state spending rose some 300 percent. The combined rate of population growth and inflation rose less than 120 percent. That’s an unsustainable rate.
Poll after poll has found Texans supportive of strong limitations. The Republican Party has had a “spending limit” ballot question in place for several primaries in a row—most recently garnering 94 percent approval.
Yet lawmakers have refused to move the item forward. Last session the Texas House didn’t even see a vote in committee on various spending limit proposals, let alone an opportunity for the GOP super-majority to take action.
Current House Speaker Joe Straus—who has previously said the state should be looking for new revenues rather than explore more budget restraint—remains somewhat dismissive of the proposal pushed by his party, the governor and lieutenant governor. He told the Houston Chronicle that “if their thoughts require discussion, I’m sure we’d be happy to look at it.”
Staking out a position starkly opposed to Mr. Dewhurst, Mr. Straus said the state “has a very fiscally conservative Legislature, and I expect it will continue to stay that way.”
Rather than trust future politicians to make good choices, taxpayers are looking for substantive, systemic reforms in state government that ensure a stronger economy. By putting strict limits on government growth, Texans will be freed.