Both chambers of the Texas Legislature released budget proposals yesterday for the upcoming biennium. Given Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar revenue estimate of a shortfall, lawmakers have three options: make spending cuts, raid the state’s rainy day fund, or reach into taxpayers’ wallets.
The plan offered by the Texas House tends towards the latter, budgeting $5.3 billion in excess of projected revenues. Budget cuts are relatively sparse, and those that do exist aren’t very popular and don’t exactly fund real issues. For example, one of the cuts is $137 million in planned border security funding. Meanwhile, the crony cabal at the Texas Racing Commission are granted a 6 percent increase in funding.
Given the House’s refusal to make serious cuts, lawmakers in that chamber would need to take money from taxpayers or seize half the balance of the Economic Stabilization Fund in order to balance the budget, for what amounts to a mere 2 percent decrease in revenue.
Predicting a budget shortfall and sensing that taxpayers may be less than enthused about paying for more government, establishment lawmakers in the Texas House have been advocating for raiding the ESF for months.
At a conference hosted by the Texas Association of Business yesterday, State Rep. Drew Darby (R–San Angelo) who is a favorite to chair the Appropriations Committee, continued to bang the drum for raiding the fund.
“It was designed to accommodate these times that we’re in right now,” said Darby. “It has been raided and reduced to near zero three times in the past.”
Depleting the balance of the ESF would leave Texas unprepared for future hardships and could negatively impact the state’s credit rating, a move that would sharply increase costs.
Thankfully the Texas Senate proposal issued by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson (R–Flower Mound) neither raids the ESF nor asks taxpayers to bear an even greater burden.
Coming in right under the Comptroller’s revenue estimate, the Senate proposal forces government to live within its means by making across the board budget cuts.
“I am proud to reappoint Senate Finance Chairman Jane Nelson and I congratulate her on the filing of Senate Bill 1,” said Patrick. “This budget is well within the available revenue and upholds our commitment to continue to live within our means and not spend more than the growth of our population times inflation.”
While both proposals will undergo serious review as the Texas Legislative session continues to unfold, the Senate plan is a clear favorite for conservatives. However, as the pressure continues to build citizens will have to stand firm and fight back against any attempt to raid the ESF or increase taxes.