A recent announcement, issued by Senate Finance Chairman Jane Nelson (R–Flower Mound) and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick encourages state agencies to review and scrutinize every expenditure using a zero-based budget approach. In addition, the Senate Finance Committee will incorporate the principles of zero-based budgeting when drafting the next state budget during the legislative session that begins in January.
The announcement by the Texas Senate takes a large step toward greater fiscal responsibility and is drawing praise from conservative lawmakers.
Under zero-based budgeting, the state budget would essentially be wiped clean at the beginning of each appropriation process. Each agency would then be required to justify each line item and program as it relates to explicit constitutional and statutory duties every two years when a new state budget is formed.
The change would be a marked improvement over the status quo in which state agencies can simply point to increasing populations and make globby generalizations on why they need more and remove the sense of entitlement for existing appropriations. Because each measure would receive a sharp review each appropriation cycle, conservatives contend that waste, fraud, and abuse would be easier to cut.
The measure drew strong praise from State Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville), a consistent advocate for fiscal responsibility reforms.
“I am a strong proponent of zero-based budgeting. The traditional method of funding government agencies automatically assumes growth year-over-year, with far less scrutiny of the programs and services these agencies administer than is needed,” said Sen. Konni Burton. “I am excited to see our chief budget writer and presiding officer in the Texas Senate leading boldly.”
The move is just one of many in a steady pursuit of conservative fiscal policy by Patrick. Conservatives should be encouraged that while the return of the legislature is nine months away, the groundwork is already being laid for a strong session.