It’s suddenly fashionable in Austin for lawmakers to wring their hands and fret over the budget surplus and overflowing rainy-day account. Rather than look for ways to give the money back to taxpayers, self-described conservatives are itching to spend the money on well-heeled special interests.

Sure, sure, all the current talk sounds noble: Republicans say they are going to “invest” the surplus in “infrastructure.” How gracious of them! Too bad they didn’t collect those dollars under such pretenses.

Ask yourself: when was the last time government made a good investment? Solyndra? The state’s cancer fund? Maybe Texas’ investment in the film Bad Kids Go to Hell? Legislators don’t “invest” for you, they spend.

Daniel Webster wrote: “There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

I would add, They tell us they will spend on us, but they mean to spend. Maybe on you, maybe for you, maybe at you, maybe in your name. But they spend.

What they don’t do is invest. Don’t let the slick, fast-talking politicians of either party convince you otherwise. They will scare us with tales of impending doom … then spend money to make sure their buddies, pals, favored lobbyists and campaign contributors (past or future) get a healthy pay-day.

For example, the “water crisis”—the crisis of the session—is being addressed by legislation that actually allows dollars to go to previously built projects looking for a better financing scheme! Water policy needs to be fixed, but so far no one is addressing the complex rights-and-permissions conflicts that make it almost impossible to move water from where it is to where it is needed. While giving the appearance of addressing a problem, the spending scheme in all likelihood won’t get any more water to your tap.

Any legislator who campaigned on tax relief, yet votes to tap the rainy day fund before voting for across the board, statewide tax relief, has lied to you. They could have demanded tax relief, but instead went along with the spenders. For the few who worry about campaign promises, and the rest who don’t, lobby contributions will no doubt soothe their consciences.

Let me be clear: What the 83rd Legislature appears unwilling to do is give tax relief. Oh, they talk about it, but it’s going to be the last thing they’ll actually consider doing.

What Texans are getting is spending, not tax relief, despite 95 Republicans in the 150-members House and 19 in the 31-seat Senate.

The budget surplus – whether in “general revenue” or the Economic Stabilization Fund (the real name of the rainy day fund) – has become little more than legislators’ play-money. Lawmakers and appropriators figure they can safely spend it without too many questions being asked; it was already taken from your wallet.

Remember, though, it was taken from the economy in the name of “economic stabilization,” not as a slush fund.

It’s a travesty. For all the campaign rhetoric about “fund diversions,” legislators are preparing to engage in a multi-billion-dollar fund diversion – using “rainy day” dollars on pet projects of questionable infrastructure efficacy.

They should instead give the money back. If the surplus accounts are over-flowing with cash, then legislators should return the dollars to taxpayers rather than shower it on lobbyists and special interests.

Not a single legislator has proposed returning excess rainy day fund dollars to the taxpayers. None. The whining about the state’s fund balances being too big mysteriously ends when anyone brings up tax relief.

For all the sloganeering from “conservative” Republicans about tax relief, not a single tax-relief bill is scheduled for a vote before either chamber takes action diverting “rainy day” dollars to new spending.

Here’s a better idea: do what you promised. Give the money back.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."