If the first two days of session are any indication, conservatives’ hope for meaningful spending cuts are going to ride on the shoulders of Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Both men have repeatedly called for strict spending limits, while House Speaker Joe Straus continues to focus on spending new revenues.
Gov. Perry hasn’t wasted any time making it known where he stands on spend any additional revenue that may be sitting in the state’s coffers.
In an address to legislators on the first day of session, Perry issued a warning about the special interests hunger for more revenue, hearing the Comptroller’s revenue estimate as a “dinner bell.”
Many of those special interests have been pushing for more money into a broken and highly inefficient public education system, claiming the state “cut” spending simply because they didn’t appropriate as much revenue as educrats wanted.
Perry told the media today that he thinks spending in public education has been “phenomenal” over past few years, citing that state spending on public education has increased nearly 300 percent more than the rate of enrollment growth since 2002.
What a breath of fresh air.
Perry, and well as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, have been pushing hard for the Legislature to adopt a strict constitutional limit on spending, prohibiting the state from increasing spending at a rate greater than that of population growth and inflation. It’s one of the five planks of the Texas Budget Compact designed to keep our state strong.
Dewhurst has even gone so far as to promise the Senate’s budget will stay below that threshold, despite the higher spending leeway given by the Legislative Budget Board.
To the surprise of nobody, Speaker Straus has been less than enthusiastic about pushing for the same type of conservative reforms.
Yesterday, he told the Dallas Morning News, “I’m not prepared yet to predict where we end up later in the session in school finance or in tax or, really, very many policies.”
Remember, it was not too long ago that Straus openly called for throwing more money into public education to the tune of $6 billion more than last session. Does anybody reasonably expect bold conservative action on public education spending when he doesn’t even recognize the fact that there’s a spending problem?
And with his desire to spend excess revenue on “big decisions” (i.e. “bigger government”), don’t expect Speaker Straus to lead on any kind of spending limit legislation either. After all, it was he who once said “you can’t cut your way to prosperity.”
Taxpayers are going to have to look to Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to get the ball rolling on spending reform this session. Perry could (and probably should) make spending limits an emergency item, forcing the Legislature to give their full attention to it – at least before normal legislation begins to start flowing. And taxpayers should lean heavily on Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to follow through on his promise to self-impose a strict spending limit on the budget, because the House version probably won’t.
Likely, this will be the case for other conservative legislation to ever have a chance of passing. We’ll see who has the political will to fight for those reforms in the 138 days ahead.
Source of Images: Texas Tribune