AUSTIN, Texas – With the state budget increasing 18.7 percent over last biennium, Texas taxpayers are left wondering where the money is going. To answer that question the former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee will lead a comprehensive budget study of the state’s budget, announced Texas Public Policy Foundation president Brooke Rollins.
Talmadge Heflin served 11 terms in the Texas House of Representatives from Harris County. His firm understanding of tax policy, coupled with an ability to examine budgets for considerable cost-savings, was recognized by Democratic and Republican House speakers alike. For many legislative sessions, Heflin was the only member to serve on both the Ways and Means and Appropriations committees.
“We’re honored to welcome Talmadge Heflin to our team,” said Rollins. “As a visiting research fellow in our Center for Fiscal Policy Studies, he brings a depth of legislative budget experience that will allow us to explore state spending in a way we have not before.”
During his term as chairman of the Committee on Appropriations (2003-2004), it was Heflin who navigated a $10 billion state budget shortfall through targeted spending cuts that allowed Texans to avoid a tax increase.
“The fact is, there is a great incentive to spend whatever comes in; there is always ‘something else’ to spend tax dollars on,” says Heflin.
Heflin and Dr. Byron Schlomach, the Foundation’s chief economist, are undertaking a review of the state budget in an effort to recommend cost savings in the next legislative session.
“As the budget continues to grow, the public needs to understand what they are getting,” said Heflin.
Setting aside mandated programs, like Medicaid, and other dedicated funding items, Heflin said only about 20 percent of the budget is left fully at the discretion of the legislature.
But Heflin said it is important to recognize that ultimately all dollars appropriated by the legislature are spent by the legislature, and taxpayers must be prepared to hold politicians accountable for state spending.