Senatorial Irresponsibility

All that talk about the Texas Senate being fiscally responsible this session? Well, not so much, it would appear.


Tommy Williams
The Senate Finance Committee voted today to draw $6 billion from the $8 billion Economic Stabilization Fund — incorrectly called the “rainy day fund” by those who see it as mad money. The dollars would create two new spending “banks,” one for water and the other for transportation. This is the brain-child of Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands).

When state senators say “water” or “transportation,” know that what they are really saying is “pork.” One really has to wonder what legislators think “ESF” means: Extra Spending Fund? Extreme Swine Funding? Elite’s Slush Fund?

The plan doesn’t propose to solve any problems, just spend lots of money. A few fat-cat senators and their lobbyist chums will no doubt make out like bandits down the road, while Texans get hit with bill.

But don’t worry, it gets worse. Sen. Williams came out today in support of a misguided plan to raise the sales tax.

Not only does he want to rob the state’s piggy-bank, he wants to reach deeper into your wallet!

Remember, this is the legislative session that was preceded by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and a historic freshman class of House and Senate members pledging NOT to raid the economic stabilization fund and pledging NOT to raise taxes.

Instead, the dinner-bell has rung and legislators are looking to see who can be the most irresponsible in handing out goodies to their donors and pals.

The sales-tax hike is a bad joke. It’s being sold as a “temporary” tax increase… lasting until 2030! You know how temporary taxes are… Kind of like the Spanish-American War tax, that was collected for a century after the war ended!

So let’s stick with $6 billion draw from the ESF for a second. That takes the fund to less than $2 billion (it has $7 billion now, and is expect to hit $8 billion later this year). Credit rating agencies have said they would expect the state to have between $5 and $7 billion in a stabilization fund in order for Texas to keep its triple-A bond rating.

The rating goes away, and state and local debt becomes a lot more expensive.

It also means the state is far more vulnerable to the economic turbulence the fund was established to stabilize. Last session, a few billion was pulled out to cover a short-fall. Fortunately, the state hasn’t had a direct hurricane hit in a few years… But a combination of fires, storms, or more Obamanomics, could plunge Texas into a less-happy place economically.

Which is why we have the ESF in the first place. It’s not there to be a mad-money account. It was created for a singular purpose: to help the state weather specific economic crises.

This is like saving a few months pay to feed your family if times get tough, but then deciding to use the money to go on vacation.

If legislators think there is too much money in the state’s ESF, then they should give it back. But they won’t. They have no intention of doing so. They took it from you, and now they can spend it on their pals.

The Texas Senate, which seemed to offer such promise in January, is reverting to its bad, old ways of fiscal irresponsibility.

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Michael Quinn Sullivan

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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