"While the Senate's proposed budget would spend $2.3 billion more in All Funds than the House's version, the budget put forth today demonstrates commendable fiscal restraint on the part of the Senate's budget writers. It is encouraging to see that the budget writers in both chambers have come to the conclusion that there are no sacred cows this session. Every agency and program must be on the table if the Legislature is to balance the budget within available revenue.
"Some will criticize the Senate's proposed budget reductions, particularly in education and health and human services. But even though the cuts are significant, overall growth in the state budget – and these functions in particular – has been significant over recent decades.
"As the Foundation's research has shown in the past, ‘between fiscal years 1990 and 2010, All Funds appropriations for Texas state government increased from $23.3 billion to $92.7 billion, a growth of nearly 300 percent. By contrast, the rate of population growth plus inflation increased only 115.5 percent over the same period.'
Appropriations for health and human services have grown by 406 percent since the 1990-91 biennium, whereas appropriated funds for education have grown by 276 percent. Texas government spending has grown far beyond the needs of the people.
"Texas taxpayers should perhaps be most encouraged to see both budgets leaving the state's Economic Stabilization Fund untouched, which is projected to be $9.4 billion in fiscal year 2013. Safeguarding these funds is critical if the state is to avoid another severe budget crisis during the 2014-15 budget cycle.
"As the legislative process moves forward, the Foundation will continue to work closely with lawmakers to develop a budget that promotes economic growth and delivers essential services to those who need it most."
The Honorable Talmadge Heflin is Director of the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Heflin served 11 terms in the Texas House of Representatives and chaired the House Appropriations Committee in 2003, leading the Texas Legislature's successful efforts to close a $10 billion budget deficit without a tax increase. His recommendations for how legislators should address Texas' budget situation were published in the January 2nd edition of the Austin American-Statesman.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit free-market research institute based in Austin.
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