Texas Senate Strengthens Spending Limit

While 94 percent of Texas’ Republican primary voters have been asking for the state’s constitutional spending limit to be strengthened, that reform never reached the floor of either chamber of the Legislature. Until today, where it passed the Texas Senate. This also marks another promise Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has delivered on from his 2014 campaign.

Senate Bill 9 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-Fort Worth) marked the most significant budget reform in a decade to the operations of the state. His measure uses changes in population and inflation as the measuring stick for limiting the growth of state government.

Improving the state spending limit has been a top issue of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility since the organization was launched in 2006.

For more than two decades, lawmakers have used the loose measure of “projected personal income growth” – a number that created a nearly limitless limit until pressure from voters over the last 14 years caused the legislature to start adopting tighter limits.

SB 9 passed mostly along party lines, with Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) siding with the Democrats in opposition.

Hancock’s measure will apply the spending limit to a greater portion of the budget and will require a super-majority of lawmakers to exceed the limit. State Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) deserves credit for having helped restore some elements that had been weakened in the committee process.

The next stop for SB 9 is the Texas House, where it faces an uncertain future because the leadership there has been hostile towards restrictions on the government of growth.

It will join the queue of more than 100 bills that have been passed by the Senate but left un-referred by House Speaker Joe Straus to a committee for hearings and consideration.

For his part, Patrick campaigned — among other things — on changing the Senate’s onerous “21 vote” rule, reining in property taxes, addressing border security, and strengthening the state spending limit. So far, the Senate has delivered substantially on all those promises.

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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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