A Budget Dealt?

According to media reports, the Texas Legislature’s House and Senate budget conferees have apparently reached a “deal” that adds $3.9 Billion in education spending while drawing at least $2 Billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund.

A very big caveat: The details of the budget deal are currently only available through media reports, which makes them suspect.

Meanwhile, it looks like the deal has about a half-billion in business tax relief and another half-billion in fee reductions.

This, coming in a legislative session that started with billions and billions in new revenues! Lots of new spending — including spending from the ESF, the so-called “rainy day” fund — and just a paltry smidgeon of tax relief. And for that matter

Looking at the broad outlines of the deal — recognizing that these are all media reports, making them rather suspect — it appears to wildly exceed the population+inflation limitation demanded by 94% of GOP primary voters on May ’12 ballot.

In fact, given the way it also draws money from the Economic Stabilization Fund, it is hard to see how it doesn’t end up busting even the current squishy cap. I wonder if anyone has checked with the state’s lawyer, Attorney General Greg Abbott, on all of this?

A May 8, 2013, letter from Mr. Abbott to the legislative leadership a couple weeks ago described spending from the ESF as counting against the spending limit.

Some weary legislators will feel compelled to sing the praises of this “deal” merely so they can justify the 140 days they spent in Austin as being un-wasted, and hope no one notices how few actual conservative reforms were accomplished.

No constitutionally strengthened spending limits. No provisions for zero-based budgeting. No significant tax relief. No reforms to property taxes… The list goes on of this Legislature left not only undone, but unattempted.

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Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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