Delegates to the Texas Republican Party Convention renewed their party’s commitment to limiting the growth of Texas government.
Texas currently has a constitutional spending limit that limits spending growth to the growth in the state’s economy. While no exact measurement device is provided for that figure, statutes further define that limit as the rate of growth of Texans’ personal incomes. It currently only takes a majority vote in both chambers of the state legislature in order to “bust the cap” and grow government faster than the limit.
However, in the 2016 Texas Republican Party Platform, delegates call for statutory changes and an amendment to the Texas Constitution to institute a stricter spending limit based on population growth and inflation. They also call for a two-thirds vote to “bust the cap.”
The two planks read specifically:
Spending Limitations– Amend the Texas Constitution and state statute with a stricter spending limitation based on population growth and inflation, and apply the new limit to all General Revenue and General Revenue-dedicated state spending.
Two-Thirds Vote– Require a two-thirds vote to override the constitutional spending limit.
Over 93% of Texas GOP delegates voted in favor of spending limitations plank, while nearly 95% of the delegates voted in favor of the two-thirds threshold. These results comport with a 2012 Republican Party ballot proposition on the issue that received the support of 94% of Republican primary voters.
The Texas Senate took action on the spending limit in 2015. State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R–North Richland Hills) filed Senate Bill 9, which would have changed state law to statutorily define the spending limit as based on population growth and inflation.
The bill passed the Senate, but was then hijacked by House Appropriations Chair John Otto (R–Dayton). Without public testimony, Otto substituted Hancock’s bill based on the will of Republican party primary voters with a bill that would have actually diminished the existing spending cap by allowing state agencies to essentially define their own caps.
Otto refused to negotiate with Hancock over the issue in conference and the spending limits bill died. Facing a primary challenge from the right, Otto chose to retire from the legislature rather than seek reelection.