There has been a great deal of Legislative attention focused on the hunt for new revenues, but almost none has been directed toward meaningful reform meant to avoid this type of shortfall in the future by limiting the state’s overspending.

While the Texas Senate agonizes its way toward a budget and considering all forms of economic widgets to “enhance revenue,” the Texas House will take up two fiscal bills today: HB 3790 and HB 3640.

HB 3790 should be viewed with great caution and it’s amendments closely examined. While there are several good reforms being offered – like those from Reps. Weber, Cain and Isaac – several others would be detrimental.

It is likely that many of these amendments to HB 3790 will be under consideration for scoring on the Fiscal Responsibility Index.

HB 3640, which seeks to find additional revenues by speeding up the collection of the Gross Margins Tax, represents a very real increased tax burden in our economy.  Not only must businesses not making money have to pay the tax, but it adds the additional insult of paying it more quickly.  The tax should be repealed, not used to further squeeze the life out of businesses during a time of fragile economic recovery.  Votes in favor of HB 3640 will be negatively scored on the Index.

It is disappointing that while the House is rushing through legislation to secure new revenues – “revenues” many taxpayers will no doubt feel as higher costs, even if they are not truly tax increases – we have not seen move out of the Appropriations Committee any of the truly meaningful fiscal reforms, such as restructuring the state’s spending limit.

With less than a month left in the Session, we should have seen those popularly supported measures move. No doubt, many conservative voters will be left wondering why this legislature did not take those measures to the floor. Whether a wholesale change of the spending limit through a constitutional change, or a statutory restructuring, this is the perfect time to adjust how fast government can grow in the future.

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

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