It’s telling that lawmakers are so busily pursuing new revenues this week, while the Appropriations Committee has refused to allow legislation to the floor that would limit future government growth. Conservatives should be worried about such priorities.
Legislation is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday that would bring new dollars into the state coffers through a series of means. Most of those are one-time dollars that will nonetheless fund on-going government expenses. The worst of these is HB3640, which would speed up the payment of the Gross Margins Tax, among others.
All such revenue-grabbing legislation should be refused until the House votes on, and passes, a statutory improvement to the state’s mostly meaningless existing expenditure limitation.
Good reform measures, both constitutional and statutory, have been filed by Reps. Kelly Hancock, Bill Callegari, Ken Paxton and others this session and in previous years. Indeed, the Appropriations Committee gave a perfunctory hearing on spending limit improvement, with no vote. The bills are hanging in committee.
On two different primary election ballots, Republican primary voters by 90 percent margins have called for the state to adopt a more strict limitation, such as the total of population growth and inflation. It’s also been a mainstay of the GOP platform. (The current measure is projected income growth — which is a half-step above no limit and something akin to throwing darts blindfolded.)
If this legislative session has taught us nothing else, it’s that government spending must be constrained in good times, so that bad times don’t present such bad choices. Indeed, if spending had been more tightly curtailed over the last two decades — as noted repeatedly by Talmadge Heflin at the Texas Public Policy Foundation — our budget picture would be much better.
Tight fiscal times are the perfect opportunity to restructure such limitations, to prevent irrationally excessive spending when the good times return. And a 101 seat Republican majority should have no trouble doing what their base voters so clearly demand.
Legislators who think they can hunt for new revenues out of the people’s pockets, without limiting how deeply government can reach in the future, should think again about the message voters sent in November 2010, and have been sending repeatedly since.