While the Texas Senate is taking strides toward greater fiscal responsibility, the other half of the state’s legislature is moving in the other direction. According to the Dallas Morning News, liberal House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) is directing lawmakers to “keep an eye on places where it needs to spend more.”
In a letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee, Straus eyes increasing spending on foster care after a crisis in Dallas revealed large inadequacies in the system—a call echoed by House Appropriations Chair John Otto.
“You’ve got some difficult issues that need to be addressed, like Child Protective Services,” said Otto. “There needs to be some change in policies, but there probably also needs to be some additional resources, which means it’s going to cost more.”
It is revealing that Straus and his lieutenant are calling for more spending before the source of the problems has been diagnosed. Further investigation could indeed reveal a need for additional resources, or it could reveal that state agencies need to be pruned back to focus on core missions.
Blindly throwing money at the problem is a liberal tactic, not a conservative one, and it is telling that Straus assumes any reform of the foster system will necessarily require an increase in spending.
Indeed many conservatives argue that the strategy of simply increasing appropriations when a party complains has resulted in the ongoing school finance saga. Straus points to the latest lawsuit before the Supreme Court as one which “could potentially require a significant infusion of additional state funds.”
Yet it is that same mentality that has allowed the matter to be disputed for over thirty years. Each time school districts sue, the state goes through a long drawn out legal proceeding, the state loses, and the legislature appropriates more money the next session in hopes of placating the money hungry school administrators. In the meantime they devise debilitating tax structures to fund the increase like the onerous franchise tax and maligned Robin Hood program. Meanwhile, the same body turns a cold shoulder to commonsense systematic reforms like school choice that could permanently solve the problem.
Straus does pay some lip-service to fiscal discipline in the letter, but his rhetoric can hardly be taken seriously given his record of killing pro-taxpayer reforms. As Speaker of the House, Straus has directed his coalition government of liberal Republicans and Democrats to kill legislation that would strengthen the spending cap, and better protect the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF).
Straus’ letter to the appropriations committee should be very concerning to taxpayers. With the downturn in oil prices, many Texans are tightening their own belts, but it’ll take a great deal of vigilance to force government to do the same.