Ogden Gets It Right - Texas Scorecard

With Texas lawmakers being told to prepare for a budget shortfall of up to $15 billion, surely it’s time for a tax hike, right? Many on the left are starting the drumbeat for higher taxes and even more spending. They are addicted to your money and big government. But chief senate budget writer, Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, isn’t playing their game.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Ogden correctly challenged those who want to use the recession as an excuse to grow government.

Q: On the budget, lawmakers face a minimum $11 billion shortfall next session.

A: No, I disagree. … I don’t think you can define it yet because you don’t know — when you say shortfall, you imply some sort of mandatory spending level and some sort of predetermined revenue level, neither of which we have. There’s no shortfall if you don’t spend it. And we don’t know yet what our revenue projections are.

Ogden is exactly right; dead-on. When people talk about a “shortfall,” they are talking about spending money on a budget that doesn’t exist with final revenue projections that haven’t been made.

It’s prudent to consider spending restraint — as Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Speaker Straus have ordered agencies to do — but it is way to early to get hysterical.

Also of interest, Ogden made a rational case for expanding the sales tax and reducing the rate. “I personally think if we had a broader-base, lower-rate sales tax it would improve things in Texas. But there’s a key in there. I mean, if you broaden the base, you can lower the rate. I’m not trying to raise taxes.”