In what is either a rare act of political honesty or an unbelievable admission of dereliction of duty, or both, State Rep. Fred Hill (R-Richardson) swore under oath that he doesnâ€™t know anything about the stateâ€™s existing spending limit.
Odd, considering he has served for years on the extremely powerful Legislative Budget Board â€“ the 10 appointed members of which are specifically charged by the Legislature to â€œAdopt a constitutional spending limit.â€ In fact, that is the first responsibility listed on the LBB web site!
â€œI do not have any involvement in the development or calculation of the State spending limit,â€ swore Mr. Hill on August 7, 2007.Â Â (Taxpayers and voters would be excused if they break into aÂ little swearing of their own at this point.)
The stunning admission came in Fred Hillâ€™s efforts to avoid a deposition related to a lawsuit alleging that lawmakers in 2005 exceeded the spending limit. The constitutional limit says the stateâ€™s spending cannot grow faster than the economy.
Truth be told, the current spending limit isnâ€™t much of a limit; itâ€™s the weakest of all such limits in the nation and really should be strengthened. Since its adoption in 1978, state government has grown an astounding 500%, while personal income has gone up 400%, and the stateâ€™s gross product risen 366%. State government is a growth industry, no doubt about it.
Could it be that one reason state spending has grown so much is because Fred Hill Republicans havenâ€™t taken time to actually enforce what constitutional prohibition we have on unrestrained spending?Â
By the way, this is the same Fred Hill who, as chairman this Session of the Local Government Ways & Means Committee, prevented popular property tax appraisal reforms from even getting public hearings. He also voted to turn a $2.5 billion immediate property tax relief bill into a $4.4 billion spending increase.
In his sworn statement to the court, Mr. Hill proclaimed that he relies â€œon reports from others for information I have regarding the spending limit and/or its calculation.â€
Thatâ€™s like a kid claiming he shouldnâ€™t fail a test because he was actually just cheating off someone else.
Maybe as an elected official, entrusted to monitor the stateâ€™s $152 billion budget and the attendant burden on the taxpayers, Mr. Hill might start paying a little closer attention to the details. Texasâ€™ taxpayers would certainly appreciate that courtesy.