No task undertaken during a legislative session is more critical than that of crafting a two-year state spending plan. Our state budget sets the tone for so many things in Texas, such as the quality of public education, our business climate and, of course, how much of your hard-earned money stays in your wallet. I am proud of the three previous state budgets that I have supported. Texas’ economic growth over the past six years coupled with our ability to further invest in the core purposes of state government and cut taxes speaks volumes to how well Texas is fiscally governed.
To that list I can now add a fourth budget, the two-year state spending plan that state lawmakers approved during the 83rd Legislative Session. The high notes speak for themselves. For fiscal years 2012 and 2013 the overall state budget equaled approximately $190 billion, while $197 billion was appropriated this session for the new state budget covering fiscal years 2014 and 2015. This additional $7 billion, most of which simply restores public education funding cuts made last session amidst our record budget shortfall, equals a modest 3.7 percent increase for the biennium, well below both the state’s spending cap and the estimated 7.5% increase deemed necessary to account for population growth and inflation during the next two years. That alone is the mark of a conservative spending plan.
I was proud to support this spending plan because I believe it meets our needs while cutting spending in non-essential areas in order to strengthen our investment in the core areas of state government. For example, we reduced $97 million in spending by closing two unnecessary prison units so that we could continue to invest more in other areas critical to our continued prosperity.
Additionally, thanks to a historic one-time investment that creates a fund to issue low interest loans for water infrastructure projects, we will not find 2060 Texas facing a 3 trillion gallon water deficit, as previously estimated. We also provided TxDOT with another $2.6 billion to build and maintain our roads. Finally, Texas invested in our business community and taxpayers by providing over $1.3 billion in tax cuts. Lawmakers even advanced truth in budgeting principles by tackling the difficult task of reducing $400 million in spending diversions and ending a $1.75 billion dollar “accounting gimmick” previously used to balance the budget.
We made the critical investments necessary to keep Texas the national leader in job creation, and we did it by passing a budget that when adjusted for population and inflation authorizes less in state spending than when I was first elected to office. This is the right trend for Texas, and our new state budget keeps us on that path to continued growth, prosperity and fiscal discipline. As one of the most conservative members in the Texas Legislature over numerous years, I would never vote for a spending plan that I felt irresponsibly grew state spending, and I am proud that with this new state budget, Texas will remain one of the lowest spending states in the nation on a per-capita basis.
Along with overwhelming support from both chambers of the Texas Legislature, this state budget was also supported by the Texas Taxpayer and Research Association, a non-partisan organization working for fiscal responsibility in state government. Specifically, with regards to the state budget the association said, “Lawmakers carefully balanced the needs for Texas public services with fiscal frugality.” Likewise, Governor Rick Perry, widely regarded to be a strong fiscal conservative, recently signed the budget package into law because he felt it met the challenge of growing Texas in a fiscally responsible way.
I know that there are outside groups that do not agree with this assessment and that they have been telling tales of the reckless spending increases approved by a thoughtless legislature. While these are wonderful, well intended organizations I have historically worked well with and look forward to continuing to work with in the future, I must respectfully disagree with their assessment of the current budget. While upon first glance their arguments may appear to be sound, it only takes a short moment to quickly understand that their arguments, in my opinion, are without merit.
For example, the claim that state spending irresponsibly grew hinges on creating a $12 billion fictitious spending increase by artificially lowering the amount of the previous state budget while subsequently artificially increasing the amount of our new state budget. Our one-time investment of $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund has also been counted as new spending when, in fact, the money is not leaving the state’s control and will replenish itself as loans issued for water infrastructure projects issued to municipalities are paid off, making this spending a true investment in our future and not reckless.
In short, this budget was about investing in our future to make sure that the next 50 years are at least as prosperous as the last 50 years. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives. Follow me on twitter at @tparker63 to receive periodic updates and please do not hesitate to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can ever be of service.