Back-Stopping the Budget? - Texas Scorecard

With the Texas Senate poised to pass a budget that lives beyond the taxpayers’ means, the left is howling that the Republican-controlled body isn’t driving Texas fast-enough off a big-enough cliff. Unfortunately, the GOP budget response may not be much better.

As you’ll recall, the Texas House earlier this month passed a budget staying within the taxpayers’ means. Liberals, of course, want the state to irresponsibly spend more and more of your money; they’re holding the Senate process hostage. As a result, the Senate is now poised to bust the bank (as we and others have pointed out).

(TFR’s executive director informed the Senate in a memo hand-delivered this morning that we will negatively score votes to use the RDF for the 2012-2013 biennial budget.)

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, told reporters on Tuesday that he “disagreed” with senators wanting to take money for the new budget from the rainy day fund; he said he preferred balancing the budget through cuts to non-essential services, fixes to state law and using non-tax revenues where possible.

In a letter to senators today (Wednesday), however, Mr. Dewhurst says he is now “comfortable” with a Senate finance plan that would “close the budget by writing a contingent appropriation of $2.8 billion” from the RDF.

This means the RDF would be tapped in the future without a special vote of the Legislature, as long as certain conditions were met. Specifically: not having as much money as the Senate is trying to spend, and the Comptroller says isn’t available.

It is one thing to hope for a stronger economy producing more revenues than predicted, it’s quite another for the Senate to base even a part of their budget (and the RDF) around such hopes.

We disagree with creating “a back stop appropriation” out of the RDF. Accessing those dollars should always be handled as a specific action of the legislature, in the context of the realities when the dollars are actually needed. It shouldn’t be an auto-pilot gimmick used to alleviate perceived pressure.

This “back stop” proposal is just a new way to let the Senate live outside the taxpayers’ means.

Senators need to stand up and make tough decisions and establish priorities within available revenues — like the House did earlier this month. Those were responsible decisions based on the need to live within available revenues.

Taxpayers expect the Senate, and indeed the whole Legislature, to produce a conservative budget for Texas.