A caucus of Republican lawmakers issued their “2017 Pledge with Texans,” a move that places them in open opposition with House leadership.
On Wednesday, the Texas Conservative Coalition members included in their “pledge to advance, support, and vote for” a promise to “protect the Economic Stabilization (Rainy Day) Fund” as well as a commitment to “balance the state budget without raising taxes.”
Those twin pledges place them in direct conflict with the budget plan offered by House leadership which proposes spending $5.3 billion in excess of projected revenues. Due to the balanced budget requirement in the state constitution, lawmakers wishing to spend that much money must either reach into taxpayers’ wallets or raid the ESF.
The House budget also fails to comply with the pledge’s promise to “maintain and improve current border security efforts” by cutting border security efforts by more than $100 million.
TCC’s pledge also places them in opposition to State Rep. Drew Darby (R–San Angelo), a TCC member and anticipated Texas House Appropriations Chairman. Darby has repeatedly advocated for spending money in the ESF, successfully draining almost $4 million from it in 2013.
Speaking to reporters last week, Darby didn’t come anywhere close to advocating for the protection of the ESF. Rather, he once again argued for it to be emptied and abolished in light of the revenue shortfall.
“This is a time where we could use some money to smooth out those rough edges of a cyclical budget, of trying to plan two years in advance and try to allocate resources two years,” said Darby. “[The Rainy Day Fund] was designed to accommodate these times that we’re in right now. It has been raided and reduced to near zero three times in the past.”
Asked further about the ESF, Darby pushed aside any thought of protecting the fund and doubled down on his support for tapping it.
“It’s become this sacred cow, if you will, that seems to be untouchable, and I think we need to rethink that,” said Darby.
In light of Darby’s remarks and the budget proposed by House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio), Texas Scorecard reached out to both TCC’s policy director and executive director seeking clarification on the organization’s commitment to protecting the ESF.
Neither individual responded.
The TCC’s pledge contains serious, conservative reforms that would likely garner the support of a majority of grassroots Republicans around the state as well as those within the Legislature. If TCC members are serious about upholding their pledge they must come out openly against the current House budget and against Darby chairing the Appropriations Committee.