One of the major opinions to emerge out of this session’s budget debate is the idea that the state’s 2012-13 budget lacks adequate resources to maintain vital programs and services. And since there is not enough money in the budget to go around, it’s argued, the Legislature should raise additional revenue through higher taxes and fees and raiding the rainy day fund.
The problem with this argument, of course, is that it ignores decades of largesse.
In fiscal year (FY) 1990, Texas’ entire budget totaled about $23 billion; yet by FY 2010, that figure had grown to nearly $93 billion, representing an increase of 300 percent-a rather remarkable level of growth when juxtaposed with population and inflation increases over the same period.
In 1990, Texas’ population numbered about 17 million; by 2010, the state’s population had boomed to a little over 25 million, resulting in an increase of 49 percent. Meanwhile, inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rose just 66 percent. Combined, the sum of population plus inflation between 1990 and 2010 increased just 115 percent.
So to recap-state spending has increased 300 percent from 1990 to 2010, while population growth plus inflation, arguably the best measure of how fast government spending should be growing, only increased 115 percent, all of which leads me to the question: “If state spending has outstripped population and inflation growth by almost 3-to-1 over the last two decades, how is it possible to claim that Texas government is underfunded?”