In their first budget vote of the legislative session, House members will have the chance to prove they meant it when campaigning on a fiscally conservative platform in November. Failing on this vote will set a poor precedent for the rest of Session.

According to media reports, the House Appropriations Committee is set to vote this week to tap up to half of the State’s rainy day fund to cover gaps in the current biennium’s budget. This would set the stage for a full vote on the House floor as early as next week.

And, yes, this vote will serve as an early test for legislators who campaigned on limiting government and fiscal responsibility.

This first push to break into the state’s piggy bank comes as the legislature looks for ways to bridge the gap in the current budget. Lawmakers, however, should not automatically look to the Rainy Day Fund as the answer without first making every effort to shore up the difference by making cuts to non-essential programs and services.

In fact, lawmakers haven’t even considered a single cut to current spending. Before breaking into the piggy bank, lawmakers should first demand to see substantive cuts made. A vote so early in the session to use savings without closely examining and cutting back non-essentials only serves to delay making difficult and responsible decisions down the road.

As mentioned, this is the first push.  Next, some in the legislature will make a play to raid the rest of the fund toward budgeting for next biennium.

Freshmen GOP lawmakers who rode the Republican wave of fiscal responsibility in November should consider carefully the economic and political impact of robbing the state’s piggy bank before even seeing a plan for cutting spending.

It is, after all, less than a year from the 2012 primary season…

Andrew Kerr is the Executive Director of Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility

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