AUSTIN – The conference committee on Senate Bill 1 is expected to convene at 2:00 p.m. today to finalize the state's 2014-15 budget. With a handful of critical issues yet to be resolved, the Texas Public Policy Foundation urges House and Senate conferees to come to an agreement regarding the principles of fiscal conservatism by limiting state spending growth, particularly as it relates to education, leaving enough available revenue on the table to direct to meaningful tax cuts, and removing the provision that allows the possibility of Medicaid expansion in Texas.
"House and Senate budget conferees have reached a critical point in the budget process, with a number of different actors pushing for more government and more spending. The pressure to grow the state budget is immense, especially when it comes to public education, but conferees should remember that big government is contradictory to the ideal held by most Texans," said Talmadge Heflin, TPPF's Director of the Center for Fiscal Policy. "Time-after-time and poll-after-poll show that Texans want their government lean and efficient, and that's the ideal that conferees should strive towards."
Heflin continued, "Conferees should reject the idea that there is not enough money available to meet the state's needs. Budget-to-budget, total state spending will have increased from $173.5 billion in fiscal 2012-13 to about $195 billion in fiscal 2014-15, an increase of over $20 billion. Education spending, despite claims to the contrary, never saw a $5.4 billion reduction and is set to enjoy another healthy $3.5 billion increase this session. Spending has not been an issue this session."
"It is critical that House and Senate budget conferees practice spending restraint to the greatest extent possible because every dollar spent is one less dollar available to cut taxes," said Chuck DeVore, TPPF's Vice President for Policy. "Pro-growth economic policies, like reducing the state sales tax rate or lessening the margin tax burden, are essential to keeping the Texas economy growing and competitive. Absent any meaningful money directed at alleviating the state's tax burden, we should expect businesses and entrepreneurs to begin sizing up other states that have already begun to implement many of these same aggressive tax reforms."
"Keeping Texas competitive means ‘holding the line' on spending growth, working to cut taxes, while also preventing Medicaid expansion," said Arlene Wohlgemuth, TPPF's Executive Director and Director of the Center for Health Care Policy. "Big government advocates have been working all session towards expanding this failed program, and they may have found a way through a rider included in the appropriations bill. That's why the Foundation is calling on conferees to do the responsible thing and delete this rider from the bill before sending it back to members for a vote."
The Honorable Arlene Wohlgemuth is the executive director and director of the Center for Health Care Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. She served 10 years in the Texas House of Representatives, specializing in health care issues.
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.
The Honorable Chuck DeVore is the Vice President for Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He served six years in the California Assembly and is the author of "The Texas Model: Prosperity in the Lone Star State and Lessons for America."
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.
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