No one wants to say it’s dead, but it looks like the Texas Legislature may be on a path to a “special session” to try to fix the state’s budget. No, it’s not a lack of money — it’s a lack of legislative leadership. The budget is dying because lawmakers have refused to govern responsibly.
Here’s how my friend Arlene Wohlgemuth, the executive director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, put it in a statement this morning:
“The 83rd Texas Legislature had at its disposal close to $20 billion of new general revenue this session. To this point, it has allocated more than $6 billion of this for spending in the current biennium. So even with more than $13 billion in new general revenue on hand for next biennium, the Legislature hasn’t been able to find money for water projects and other priorities and provide taxpayers with a meaningful tax cut. This shows that insufficient attention is being paid to the one big thing Texans expect: curbing the growth of big government in the Lone Star State.
“There is still time for a responsible, fiscally conservative budget from this session — if the Legislature prioritizes needs over wants, and listens to Texans.”
Let me underscore that: $20 BILLION. And yet the legislative leadership spent all they could find on growing government… Yet still couldn’t create a deal… Because they want to spend even more.
Democrats want to keep throwing money at the public education bureaucracy free of any reforms, while Republicans decided to drain the Economic Stabilization Fund for water rather than address this priority through the available general revenues.
House Speaker Joe Straus and his “GOP” leadership team refused to even give a committee hearing for strict, constitutional spending limits — despite being demanded by 94 percent of GOP voters in the May 2012 primary. The state senate’s Finance Committee pushed the legislation out… But Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has yet to force a floor vote on the issue.
Shouldn’t be a surprise, given what Arlene noted in terms of spending.
With the way lawmakers are spending every dollar they can find and fighting over who gets to break open the piggy bank for more, they clearly have little interest in putting state government on anything remotely resembling a diet.
If the legislative leadership had opted to govern responsibly from the outset — putting the taxpayers’ “priorities” first — the budget would be a done deal rather than resting on life-support. Lawmakers addiction to binge spending will only be curtailed when Texans speak up. And we just might end up with a “special” opportunity to do so.