Legislative Priority: Strong Constitutional Spending Limit

Texas’ prosperity hinges on keeping state government lean, effective, and within its proper role. While the state’s constitutional balanced budget restrictions protects Texans from Washington D.C.-style deficit spending, our weak spending limit is allowing government to grow faster than it should.

Our current spending limit in Article VIII of the Texas Constitution reads:

“In no biennium shall the rate of growth of appropriations from state tax revenues not dedicated by this constitution exceed the estimated rate of growth of the state’s economy. The legislature shall provide by general law procedures to implement this subsection.”

The statutory definition of “growth of the state’s economy” adopts a standard of personal income growth. Measures of this projected growth are submitted by several groups to the Legislative Budget Board before each legislative session. These estimates typically extend out 33 months, which leads to inevitable discrepancies in actual and projected growth rates.

Rather than use metrics that project how much government Texans can afford, legislators should instead use metrics tied to population and inflation growth. Such metrics are the truly best measures that account for the cost of funding public goods and services to a changing population. In other words, how large do Texans really need the government to grow, if at all.

Such a change would bolster economic growth in Texas by reigning in the growth of state bureaucracy.

A report found that since fiscal year 2004, the state budget has grown 11.8 percent over population and inflation. Had a stronger constitutional spending limit been applied then, Texans would have saved estimated 29-37 percent off the current FY 2016-2017 state budget.

Recent developments in reforming the limit include State Sen. Kelly Hancock’s (R-Fort Worth) SB 9 from last session, which passed the senate, but was subsequently gutted in the House Appropriations Committee and killed by newly-retired chair John Otto (R-Dayton). Additionally, GOP activists voiced strong support for strengthening the spending limit in near-unanimous passing of a Republican Party Platform plank calling for the institution of population and inflation measures.

Limiting the size and scope of the Texas budget only means more freedom for Texans, and fine-tuning our approach to the spending limit would be a great step towards securing responsible stewardship of fiscal matters for generations to come.

Tell the Legislature: We Need Strict Spending Limits!

More than 94% of Republican primary voters support strict spending restraints applied to all levels of government. Without limits, the size of state and local governments will continue to spiral out of control.

The current spending restraints at the state level are weak. A better limit would be based on population and inflation growth and would be applied to the entire state budget, requiring a super-majority vote of legislators to exceed that threshold.

Additionally, similar spending limits must be placed on all levels of local government in order to rein in the explosion of local debt and property tax burdens seen across the state. To deliver lasting property tax reform, legislators must empower voters, and require fiscal responsibility at the state and local level.

Will you help us in our effort to enact a strict constitutional spending limit?

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Salvador Ayala

Sal is the Budget & Policy Analyst for Empower Texans. He has been a committed proponent of American founding principles since 2007, shortly after receiving his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Before joining Empower Texans, he served as legislative director for Rep. Matt Rinaldi in the Texas house and was a delegate to the 2012 RNC. In his leisure, Sal enjoys live music, digital photography, guitar, bicycling, trivia, and documentary films.

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