This commentary originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on April 21, 2015.

Discussions each legislative session among some Texas legislators include how to spend every available taxpayer dollar. The 84th Texas Legislature may break that mold by restraining spending to needs rather than wants while providing historic tax relief.

Gov. Greg Abbott set the tone for both chambers by stating on multiple occasions that he won’t sign a budget that doesn’t include business franchise tax cuts.

The Senate answered by passing a $4.6 billion tax cut package. This includes reducing the franchise tax by cutting the rates 15 percent, increasing the revenue cap to $20 million to file a simplified form, and raising the revenue exemption level to $4 million. The package also provides homeowners with temporary property tax relief by doubling the homestead exemption.

The House Ways and Means Committee upped the ante by approving a $4.9 billion tax cut package that lowers the franchise tax burden by cutting the rates 25 percent and increasing the revenue cap to $20 million to file the EZ form. Rather than provide property tax relief, the House package permanently reduces the state’s sales tax rate 5 percent.

Fortunately, the House and Senate versions of the total budget increase by less than population growth plus inflation of 6.5 percent. This maximum growth rate must not be surpassed before final approval so that Texans can support the budget increase without concern of higher taxes and fees.

Critics claim that there are unmet needs of the state even though the total budget has increased by roughly 12 percent relative to the increase in population growth plus inflation since 2004. No matter how much is spent, there will always be requests to fund someone’s favorite budget item.

The question isn’t how many tax dollars the government spends but whether there is a reasonable return. Far too often, more dollars just fund mediocre or failed programs. Rather than spending more to address policy failures, legislators should consider structural reforms that improve those programs.

We should transform the education system by providing school choice, liberating parents, students, and teachers to choose the school that best meets their needs.

We should reform the health care system so that it’s patient-centered based on a market-oriented approach that’s nonexistent in the current third-party pay system dominated by “Obamacare.”

We should change the way we handle transportation projects by restructuring the procurement process to remove costly contracting restrictions and take advantage of innovative methods and materials.

Legislators must remember that every dollar at their disposal is taxpayer money. With spending growing faster than population and inflation, a large available balance, and a slowing economy, Texans deserve tax cuts.

Though the discussions at the Capitol are encouraging, it’s important that disagreements over tax cuts don’t obstruct benefits for Texans.

Our research at the Texas Public Policy Foundation finds that the way to provide the biggest economic boost would be to eliminate the franchise tax. Legislators should provide the most money to putting this business tax on a path to elimination.

In fact, if $4.7 billion in tax relief dollars were put towards the franchise tax, legislators could do a huge service to Texans and eliminate this costly tax in the second year of the upcoming biennium.

More money should stay in the hands of taxpayers. It’s terrific that at this stage of the budget process state officials are discussing how much to return to taxpayers — where it belongs — relative to how much more they can spend.

Heflin is director of the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit, free-market research institute based in Austin.