Photo above by Texas Tribune (5/29/2011)
After the Legislative Budget Board meeting two weeks ago, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has gone deeper on record affirming his desire for the State Senate to pass a budget that keeps spending below the rate of population plus inflation growth. Tellingly, no such commitment has come from embattled moderate House Speaker Joe Straus.
On November 15, the Legislative Budget Board (comprised of the Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, and their statutorily defined appointees) voted to keep spending growth on the 2014-2015 budget below 10.7 percent more than the previous biennium. The estimated rate of growth of population plus inflation over the same time period is only 9.85 percent—a difference of billions when talking about a budget as large as the State of Texas.
But during the meeting, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst made known that despite the LBB’s vote, he intended the Senate to pass a budget with spending below the rate of population plus inflation.
Now, Mr. Dewhurst is doubling down on his vow to limit spending.
In a letter sent out yesterday, the Lt. Gov. reaffirmed his commitment made during the LBB meeting, saying:
“I intend, as I stated in the meeting, to not pass an appropriations bill out of the Texas Senate in which state appropriations exceed the growth of inflation and population in Texas for Fiscal Years 2014-2015.”
That’s welcome news to taxpayers.
With a decidedly more conservative Senate body, a more conservative Senate Finance Chair, and a devoted Lt. Governor, the state’s higher chamber appears poised to lead Texas with a responsible budget.
The Texas House on the other hand, not so much.
House Speaker Joe Straus refuses to make any commitments towards reducing spending, opposing new taxes, or preserving a strong Rainy Day Fund. He’s sent out many signals since the end of the 82nd Session indicating the state should instead look for more revenue, such as when he told the El Paso Times that “you can’t cut your way to prosperity.”
Just recently, Speaker Straus appeared on WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics, where he claimed spending per capita has not grown in Texas. (On the contrary, state spending has grown approximately 300 percent in the past 20 years, while population plus inflation has grown just above 150 percent.)
If Mr. Straus remains the Speaker in the 83rd Legislature, conservative fiscal leadership will clearly not be coming from the House leadership team.
Instead, conservatives will need to look to Mr. Dewhurst and the State Senate to ensure spending is kept under control this session.
You can read the full text of Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s letter HERE.