Don't bust the spending cap

Photo by Rick Mach

Texas leads the nation in job growth and economic opportunity because we’ve applied common-sense, conservative principles to public policy. We don’t spend more than we bring in, and when times are good, we save for a rainy day. This core budgeting guideline has helped propel Texas while states like California and New York fall into a spiral of debt and decline.

The more government spends, the more it takes away from the people it serves, leaving them with less personal freedom. Recognizing the importance of limited government, we’re grateful that Texas limits state spending in several ways — the most important of which may be the state’s constitutional spending cap on general revenue. This simple budget restriction states, “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 Legislative Budget Board, which is made up of the House speaker, the lieutenant governor and eight other Texas legislators, projected state economic growth of 10.71 percent from fiscal years 2012-13 to 2014-15. After adding this growth rate to the 2012-13 budget, the spending cap grew from $77.2 billion for 2012-13 to $85.2 billion for 2014-15.

General revenue spending not dedicated to a specific purpose for the 2014-15 state budget grew to $85 billion, making this biennium the largest budget in the history of Texas. Such a large increase in spending pushed the budget dangerously close to the constitutional cap, leaving very little room for error or additional appropriations. Recently, two health care agencies have indicated in writing that combined they’ll exceed their 2014-15 budget and need over $1 billion in supplemental spending. Without a course adjustment, this means the very first vote of the next legislative session could be to “bust the cap” for the fiscal year that ends September 2015.

As incoming members of the Texas Senate, we commit to limiting the size and reach of government, and right now, we oppose such a vote. Given the tremendous amount of money appropriated, there’s enough room to stay within the spending constraints of the budget and avoid busting the cap.

It’s important to note that because the spending cap is tied to the previous year’s spending, all it takes is the fiscally irresponsible actions of one legislature to leave a lasting impact on future generations. The more our state spends today, the higher the baseline is for the next biennium’s cap.

“Busting the cap” would have even more dramatic effects. Not only does it signal to Texans that the Legislature is unwilling or unable to live within its means, but it jolts government growth onto an unsustainable path since spending would be increasing faster than the growth of our economy. State leaders must have the courage to rein in government and change the growth curve now instead of creating a lasting problem for our children to fix. Unfortunately, we’ve learned this lesson all too well from the failed big-government policies of Washington, which have passed on a legacy of debt to the next generation.

Politicians always have a reason for government to spend more, and the policies forced on us by the federal government are making matters worse. Despite successfully fighting off the expansion of Obamacare in Texas, the president’s health care law is projected to grow Medicaid rolls in Texas by approximately 730,000 this biennium. Additionally, Washington’s total neglect of our border has forced Texas to spend its own money to try to fix the problem. But Texas doesn’t make excuses. Texas leads.

We reject the Washington-style budgeting gimmicks and political tricks used to pressure legislators into accepting spending trends that jeopardize our children’s future. The citizens of Texas have sent a clear message that they expect their elected officials to roll up their sleeves and make the tough decisions necessary to keep Texas a beacon of freedom and opportunity, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

Konni Burton

State senator, R-Colleyville


Brandon Creighton

State senator, R-Conroe


Bob Hall

State senator, R-Edgewood


Van Taylor

State senator