Expecting bold leadership from your state legislators this session? Don’t get your hopes up. If the first 80 days have been any indication, lawmakers are more interested in maintaining the status quo with bigger government than enacting commonsense conservative policy reforms.
Apparently even most Republicans can’t avoid the temptation of spending other people’s money when it becomes available.
We saw it last week when House voted to create a brand-new debt-creation mechanism in the name of “funding water,” instead of taking a serious look at reducing regulations on the water market that has made it so difficult for existing water supplies to move to where it’s in high demand.
All but 15 Republicans voted with the intention of drawing $2 billion out of the Rainy Day Fund in order to kick-start it—most of whom pledged to protect the RDF when they signed or signaled support for the Texas Budget Compact.
So instead of using the state’s expected $8.8 Billion of General Revenue surplus to pay for water and avoid spending money from the RDF, legislators in both chambers are putting those dollars in systems of government that need reform more than they need more revenue.
Look no further than the $2 to $3 billion of additional public education spending likely to make its way into the budget — nearly twice as much that would be needed to cover enrollment growth.
Why? In part because of a lack of leadership in the conservative movement. Apparently it’s easier to just throw more money at the problem while it’s available than push back against false claims, like Public Education being “cut” last session. (Only in government is slowing the rate of an increase considered a “cut.”)
Yes, the budget (at least the non-dedicated general revenue sector of it) will likely still fall under the spending plus inflation growth threshold, and that is a positive.
But spending more money for the sake of spending more money is still irresponsible, even if you now have more of a cushion to do so.
Meanwhile, Speaker Straus and others in the House continue to obfuscate their position on Medicaid expansion, seeking a more palatable version of the Obama Administration’s current offer, while Senate members toy with the idea of raising taxes while passing a bill to set term limits on everyone … except themselves of course! How courageous.
So far taxpayers have not seen a single bill related to zero-based budgeting or elimination of the franchise tax scheduled for a hearing in a committee of either chamber—likely because only the few who authored those bills have stood up to call for such reforms. Only today did taxpayers learn the Senate Finance Committee will be taking up spending limits tomorrow. The Appropriations Committee in the House so far has not.
The governor shouldn’t escape this with impunity either.
Outside of his steadfast opposition to Medicaid expansion, he hasn’t given conservatives any political cover-fire to do good things – in fact one could argue he’s done just the opposite. The few bold policy reforms mentioned in his State of the State address were overshadowed by his support of drawing money from the Rainy Day Fund for water, roads, and tax relief without a fully thought-out plan on how to do so.
Conservatives across the board are missing a great opportunity to put bold policy reforms in place because of a void in leadership within the movement. Just being in the game is no longer good enough.
Someone needs to take charge of it.