Including $4 billion in tax cuts and a needed re-prioritization of spending, State Sen. Jane Nelson released the blueprint from which the Senate Finance Committee — which she chairs — will draft the state budget. The Flower Mound Republican presented her plan in the form of Senate Bill 2.
While the details will be further examined over the next several days, a few items in Nelson’s budget stand out:
- $3 billion in property tax relief
- $1 billion in business tax relief
- Zeroing out state funding to the Travis County Public Integrity Unit
- Zeroing out the Texas Racing Commission
- Reducing the Texas Ethics Commission budget by a third
Nelson’s budget is the first step in making good on promises made by Republicans in the 2014 election cycle. With an emphasis on significant tax relief, Nelson has highlighted the need for lawmakers to look substantively for cost savings rather than new revenues. Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick both campaigned on the need for significant tax relief to be offered in 2015.
Under the budget proposal, state funding would be cut off to the disgraced “Public Integrity Unit” in Travis County. That entity, headed by a liberal Democrat elected by Travis County voters, is unaccountable to the people of Texas and has been used for years as a partisan weapon against conservatives. (Of note: House Speaker Joe Straus and his cronies blocked efforts in 2013 to end funding to the office.)
The last two bullet-points are similarly significant. Both agencies thumbed their noses at the state constitution and statutory authority over the last 12 months. The TEC has promulgated rules giving itself powers to chill political speech specifically denied them by gubernatorial veto in 2013. Two-thirds of the Senate voted to stop the power grab, but Democrats and Straus loyalists in the House nonetheless bullied through legislation vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.
Just this fall, the Texas Racing Commission voted to expand the footprint of gambling in the state despite lacking the constitutional or statutory authority to do so.
Nelson’s emphasis on cutting taxes stands in marked contrast to the spending priorities set by Straus; his budget proposal offered nothing in the form of tax relief.
While recognizing that this is only the starting point, Sen. Nelson is to be congratulated for beginning the budget process by looking for tax relief.