Earlier this week, Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst reiterated their call for a stricter state spending limit, a reform that is desperately needed to rein in the long-term growth of government spending.
As we detailed in an April 2012 Policy Brief, Trends in Texas Government: State Government Spending, the growth of state government spending is fast-outpacing Texans' ability to afford it. Consider that from fiscal 1990 to fiscal 2012, state spending grew by 310 percent; yet the sum of population growth plus inflation grew by just 132 percent.
Hypothetically speaking, had state spending been limited to the sum of population growth plus inflation-a metric supported by both the Governor and the Lt. Governor-spending between fiscal 1990 to fiscal 2012 would have only grown from $23 billion to $53.2 billion. Instead, under the currently weak spending limit we have now, spending has grown from $23 billion to $94.3 billion-quite a big difference in the size of government and the burden on taxpayers.
Other than limiting the growth of state spending to inflation plus population, other ways that the Legislature can improve the state's constitutional spending limit include:
- Make sure the TEL is self-contained within the state's constitution and does not require enabling legislation;
- Apply the provisions to the rate of growth of all appropriations-not just non-dedicated, non-federal funds;
- Require a supermajority vote of each chamber to exceed the limit rather than the current standard of a simple majority vote; and
- Apply the spending limit to all levels of Texas government. Currently, the limit is only aimed at state spending.
To read a detailed report on strengthening the state's constitutional spending limit, see here.