As Texas Republicans head towards an uncertain 2020 election, one state to the West may serve as an example of what Texas should have done to prepare.
In 1992, Colorado passed a constitutional amendment known as the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” In short, the amendment requires government at the state and local levels to seek voter approval before raising taxes. The measure also limits growth in some state spending to population growth plus inflation and—perhaps most importantly—requires that extra cash be returned to taxpayers.
That’s right, if the state takes in more than it is allowed to spend, the state must return the surplus to taxpayers.
A novel concept, right?
It’s been over 25 years since the Centennial State passed its taxpayer protections; however, Texas lawmakers have repeatedly failed to pass any sort of similar provision demanding that surplus revenue (overtaxation) be returned to taxpayers. When the Texas Legislature was faced with nearly $10 billion in surplus revenue ahead of the recent legislative session, politicians seemed to talk more about how to spend it than how to put it back in the pockets of hardworking Texans.
When property tax relief was finally discussed, both the House and Senate initially wanted to only spend about a third of the surplus on relief. Instead, they elected to spend the remainder on growing government in the form of an omnibus school spending bill.
Ultimately, taxpayers were successful in raising that number closer to a 50-50 split after vigilantly and incessantly demanding lawmakers do the right thing.
Consider this contrast, however. In Colorado this year, when the state was faced with surplus revenue, it was Democrats who wanted to spend the “extra” money instead of giving it back to taxpayers. Meanwhile, in Texas, it was Republican leadership that championed the spending spree, while failing to provide safeguards for taxpayers in future sessions.
Is this an inspiring strategy for re-election?
With Texas Democrats gaining a significant number of seats in the Texas Legislature in the last election, encroaching on the wide margin Republicans used to hold in the chambers, Texas taxpayers may someday look back and wish lawmakers had focused less on spending sprees and more on protecting taxpayers.