While the grassroots may disagree on the means from time to time, the end goal of the conservative movement remains the same: put government in its proper size and role in order to ensure that individual liberty is maximized. That includes our state government, where we are doing pretty well in comparison to other states, but know we can do better.
As Texans, we strive to be the very best at everything we do. Unfortunately, there are members of the Legislature who don the Republican Party label, but do not share the philosophy that government should be limited so that all individuals can utilize their talents to grow and prosper to the best of their abilities.
This session, Texans have a great opportunity to put our principles into action.
Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s official Biennial Revenue Estimate reported approximately $7.5 billion in surplus revenue will be carried forward from this biennium into the 2016-17 biennium that begins on September 1st. That means the state has more money than it expected to have two years ago, which gives lawmakers the ability to cut taxes in order reduce incoming flow of revenue that fills the state’s coffers.
Philosophically, those in the conservative movement understand the reason to push for tax relief. A surplus is nothing more than government over-collection, so it should be returned to the people. But there’s more to cutting taxes than an intrinsic desire to keep more of what you worked hard to earn.
In practice, cutting taxes directly cuts the amount of revenue legislators and bureaucrats have to spend, which thereby forces them to prioritize spending by cutting unnecessary and wasteful programs and keeping our government operating within its constitutionally-defined bounds. This method is especially effective with government entities like the State of Texas that have prohibitions against spending any more than the revenue they collect.
Led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, members of the Texas Senate have demonstrated that they do not take their duty and moral obligation as stewards of our tax dollars for granted. Lt. Gov. Patrick has repeatedly called to cut spending and reduce taxes in meaningful ways. Thanks to the leadership of Finance Chairman Jane Nelson, the Senate’s first draft of the state budget includes nearly $3 billion in property tax relief and $1 billion in business tax relief, all while keeping overall spending in check.
In his State of the State Address, Governor Abbott advanced a budget including $2.2 billion in property tax relief and $2 billion in business tax relief. In addition, Abbott put forward a strong constitutional spending limit – limiting spending growth to population plus inflation – as the answer to our state’s growing debt.
Larson, one of Speaker Joe Straus’ right-hand men and his legislative neighbor in Bexar County, went on record recently opposing cutting taxes, deriding the idea as “political gimmickry.” Instead, he said, we should pay down debt before entertaining the idea of giving money back to taxpayers.
Eltife joined the chorus of moderate Republicans in opposition to reducing the size and scope of government, echoing the false narrative of “debt reduction before tax relief” that he’s staked his political reputation on for years.
At best, these men are woefully ignorant. At worst, they are part of an old, establishment class in Austin who want to keep the money flowing for special interests and pet projects.
In theory, paying down debt while money is available sounds like a sensible plan. Most Texans would certainly pay down their credit card bill if they found some extra cash lying around. But that’s where the metaphor of a household budget stops being an accurate comparison to state spending practices.
Unlike you or me, the Legislature’s goal should be to reduce the inflow of revenue the state receives. And also unlike the average Texan, the government often tries to set how much revenue it collects to cover their spending habit, instead of pairing down spending to stay within its means.
Rep. Larson and Sen. Eltife want to pay off the state’s credit card bill, but they don’t want to address why the state went into debt in the first place!
Governor Abbott has the right strategy on tackling our ballooning debt problem. The combined strategy of cutting taxes and spending is they only sure-fire way to ensure the reach of government is reduced back to its proper scope. To enact one reform without the other would result in mostly cosmetic changes at best, leaving the door open for further unrestrained government growth.
We should be lauding our legislators who have dedicated their time and talent to consistently seek out new ways to make government more efficient, to allow taxpayers to keep more of their own money, and to maximize our freedoms and liberty. That’s what we elected them to do. That’s what we expect them to do.
When they won’t, Texans have demonstrated that they’ll find someone that will.