Legislation filed in advance of the 2013 session would strictly limit spending to the sum of population growth and inflation. Voters and taxpayers across the political spectrum have long supported this stronger limit on government.
Passed by voters in the late 1970s, the state’s spending limit was ignored by the Legislature for a decade until then State Rep. Talmadge Heflin sued and forced lawmakers to abide by the constitution. The law, however, let the legislature set the limit, and they choose a non-limit: the projected growth in personal income. Just last month the Legislative Budget Board adopted the spending limit for the next biennial budget—exceeding the sum of population and inflation.
A stronger limit—the sum of population and inflation—is being proposed by State Rep. Phil King of Weatherford. His HB 237 “would limit spending by the Texas Legislature to not exceed the population growth in Texas when indexed for inflation.”
Mr. King, one of TFR’s 2011 Taxpayer Champions, said the legislation is necessary for keeping the Lone Star State on sound economic footing into the future.
“Texas has done a good job of being fiscally responsible with its spending during the tough economic times we have faced over the past few years,” King explained, “However, it is very important that we implement a conservative spending cap to ensure that even in the good times, Texas does not become irresponsible with its taxpayers’ dollars.”
As the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Texas Monthly have reported (using different methods of calculating), state spending has nonetheless greatly exceeded the sum of population and inflation over the 20 year period from 1990 to 2010. Much of the wildest growth occurred in the 1990s.
Strictly limiting the growth of government is one of the strongest protections lawmakers can offer taxpayers.
Mr. King has said he will also file a constitutional amendment to cement the limit.
For the last several years, Republican primary voters have been asked on their primary ballot about limiting the growth of all levels of government. In 2012, 94 percent voted in favor of that position.
A recent poll found 70 percent of all Texas voters support strong spending limits.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made spending limits a key plank in his Texas Budget Compact. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has said the 2013 Senate would pass a budget that comes in under the population+inflation limit.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Joe Straus has been publicly dismissive of the Budget Compact, and last session with a GOP super-majority his committee chairs refused to allow movement on efforts to strengthen the spending limit.
Along with other legislation strengthening the spending limit, HB 237 will be included on the 2013 Fiscal Responsibility Index.