Today, the Texas Senate Finance Committee will meet to discuss whether changes need to be made to the existing state spending limitation to restrain the growth of future government spending to population growth plus inflation. Tax and expenditure limitation legislation is widely popular among the people in Texas and it isn’t difficult to understand why: the purpose of TEL legislation is to force the legislature to prioritize necessary functions of government.
In 1978, the Texas Legislature and Texas voters approved a state constitutional amendment to limit the rate of growth of future state spending to the rate of growth of the state economy. According to the Tax Foundation, over the last four decades (1978-2009), state spending has totaled $1.32 trillion while a tax and expenditure limitation of population growth plus inflation would have limited the total state spending to $869.1 billion over this same period.
While we are familiar with the concept of limiting the future growth of government spending, the real truth is that the government already operates programs which are unnecessary, costly, and compete against the private sector. Talmadge Heflin at the Texas Public Policy Foundation recently provided testimony to the House Government Efficiency and Reform committee showing a list of programs at state agencies that would provide legislators ways to cut current spending and not just limit the growth of future government spending. Heflin, you’ll recall, served as House Appropriations Chairman in the Texas House. He knows of what he speaks.
Reforming the tax and expenditure limitation is necessary to check future state spending increases, but the Legislature is already empowered to cut spending by eliminating government programs and agencies that do not serve a core function of government nor have a constitutional purpose, regardless of the expenditure limitation. Texas is still operating with many of the programs and agencies initiated and created by Governor Ann Richards twenty years ago – unfathomable that she and her liberal cohorts have been out of power so long, and yet their reach is still felt today because no one has taken an axe to their programs! The executive and legislative branches need to put a stamp on Texas government that reduces and limits government and return to the baseline of state spending as a legacy for future generations of Texans and as an example of fiscal responsibility.