Limited Budget Growth

Within the next day or two, members of the Texas Senate and House will finalize a state budget. Remarkably, it is one that meets the minimum threshold of “not spending everything.”

CTB+May+2015 What conservatives asked for last summer.

Last year, conservative groups joined together as the “Conservative Texas Budget Coalition” to set some base-line markers of success for the legislative session. The first of which was for a budget that grew no more than population and inflation.

The grow-government political establishment said it couldn’t (or maybe they said “shouldn’t”?) be done.

While individuals can argue over the details, the Senate-House conference committee ably met the Conservative Budget challenge with a bottom-line that lives within the population and inflation metric Texans so strongly support.

There is still a lot of work to do. Of the six metrics-for-success set forth by the coalition, that’s the only one that was fully accomplished.

The others – which included items like elimination of the business “margins tax,” requiring voter approval for property tax increases that exceed the lesser of 5 percent or population and inflation – weren’t done. Of course, an increase in the homestead exemption and a reduction in the margins tax mark excellent progress that cannot be ignored, discounted or dismissed.

Still in play for the session is the call for a stronger spending limit. That’s an important tool in keeping government growth under control. (It’s also supported by 94 percent of Republican primary voters.)

State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) passed a strong measure out of the Senate, but State Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton) gutted the measure – with the approval of his House colleagues, no less.

That measure, Senate Bill 9, will head to a conference committee where hopefully Hancock and the Senate can convince Otto to undo the mess he created.

Back to the conference committee report on the budget (House Bill 1).

Because lawmakers hit the “minimum threshold,” we won’t rate final passage of the budget on the Fiscal Responsibility Index. No doubt some members will find that it misallocates funds in areas important to them, while others will feel it hits the right mark.

Either way, Texans are being presented with a budget that spends no more than the limit established by the Conservative Texas Budget Coalition. Now let’s see if the spenders will stay in it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans, and its premier project, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capital 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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