Three budget proposals promoted this week by Texas Gov. Rick Perry would substantially ensure a strong state economy for generations to come. Two of the three aren’t new, either to Perry or voters, but Texans deserve to have the package implemented in the next legislative session.
Limiting spending, and controlling politicians access to the people’s wallets, creates a clear public good. It forces a tighter focus on what is necessary, appropriate and effective.
At stops in Fort Worth, Lubbock and Midland yesterday, Gov. Perry — along with the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Arlene Wohlgemuth and myself — pitched the ideas.
1) Strengthen the constitutional spending limit, to begin using population+inflation cap as the maximum limit for spending. This would, of course, keep the balanced budget requirements. The two act as a strong hedge for taxpayers, and both continue to demand prudent lawmakers. Just because the credit card says you can spend $50,000, doesn’t mean you should. And even though the state has the money, or can fall jkust under a cap, doesn’t mean wise stewards should do so.
As an aside, if population-plus-inflation had been the rule since 1990, Texans would have some $320 billion in our pockets and not in the state coffers.
2) A super-majority requirement to raise taxes. This has a more obvious, direct taxpayer impact. If taxes are to be raised, the reasons should be abundently clear to two-thirds of the legislature.
3) The new proposal is for a state Office of Inspector General, who would have broad independence for culling waste, fraud and abuse.
(For me, this new proposal meshes nicely with the state’s impressive transparency system we pushed successfully in 2007.)
Back in 2003, then state representative Wohlgemuth led the reforms of the Health and Human Services Commission, creating an OIG for the agency. Since then, the HHSC OIG has produced more than $4b in savings in 2004. So this can provide real money for the taxpayers.
The Hutchison campaign sniffed the proposals away. Yes, Perry has championed two of three in the past. But that doesn’t mean the issues don’t deserve to be pushed again. Indeed, as Perry said on the road, now more than ever taxpayers need these protections. Perry is clearly counting on a more receptive legislature than has existed in the past.
Given the number of unbalanced budgets to which Sen. Hutchison has been a party, and the number of tax games played by her colleagues, one would expect she would excitedly embrace the kind of commonsense fiscal stewardship that has made Texas the nation’s economic powerhouse.
It’s a shame that the politics of the now might be the cause for her camp’s cold shoulder to what are undeniably correct positions for the people of Texas.