Texas House leadership is doubling down on their plan to raid the Rainy Day Fund in order to fill in deficiencies in the budget—literally.
A consequence of Texas’ part-time legislature and biennial budgeting process, lawmakers routinely need to fix differences in anticipated and actual costs in the past year’s budget by approving an additional spending bill known as the supplemental budget.
While the supplemental budget is traditionally funded out of incoming revenues, House Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas (R–Richmond) broke from tradition earlier this month and proposed spending $1.4 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund.
Now he wants to withdraw even more, offering an amended budget including $2.5 billion in spending out of the Rainy Day Fund.
Proposing an even more extravagant spending spree is egregious enough, but a review of the additional budget items reveals a more nefarious plot.
Included in the new supplemental budget are two items that aren’t “supplemental” at all, but rather appropriations that would be spent in the upcoming biennium. And they’re not just any items either, they’re two of the hottest issues that the Texas Legislature will deal with: border security and public education funding.
Their inclusion in the supplemental budget is an obvious attempt to bully conservatives in the Texas House by ostensibly forcing them into a no-win scenario where they must either vote for raiding the Rainy Day Fund or vote against funding border security and public schools.
According to sources in the Capitol, lawmakers have already been informed that should they vote against the supplemental budget they will be accused of cutting more than $100 per student—a potentially perilous accusation in their next re-election campaign.
Conservatives would do well to stand strong and avoid falling into the coalition leadership’s trap. If they play the game on Zerwas’ terms, there’s no way they can win, but if they simply play on their own terms then victory is assured.
The truth is that House leadership knows they must pass border security funding and public education funding or risk their own necks in the Republican primary. In short, conservatives have a winning hand and can only lose if they’re intimidated into backing down.
They should call House leadership’s bluff and force them to lay their cards on the table by voting against any supplemental appropriations bill that raids the Rainy Day Fund.