Here’s an interesting fact about the Doobie Brothers. When the band first formed in 1970, “the Doobie Brothers” was never supposed to be the permanent name – just something to go by until they thought of something better. But nothing better came along, so their name was made permanent with their 1971 self-titled album. They kept a name that all of the original members reportedly disliked – through inaction.

I bring up the Doobie Brothers because of their recent performance in Midland, staged thanks to a $50,000 performance deposit paid by Midland County.

According to an excellent Midland Reporter-Telegram editorial, the county judge defended the expense by saying, “The investment is you enrich their lives with entertainment that they haven’t seen out here.”

The problem is that’s not the proper role of county government. It’s not an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.

But like the Doobie Brothers themselves, government at all levels tends to get bigger and bigger, almost by default. Unless action is taken, that temporary band name will stick – or a new duty or expense will be undertaken and taxpayer funds will find new ways out of government coffers.

And that’s why the Texas Public Policy Foundation is calling for action, through the Texas Prosperity Promise.

In less than a year, the Texas Legislature will be back in session, with the opportunity to either enact policies that advance the cause of liberty, or roll back the reforms that have enabled Texans to prosper.

The Promise lays out policies that will result in a high-quality education system, fair taxation, responsible spending, more accountability, and a renewal of self-governance. It’s more than a plan for the next legislative session: it’s a commitment to the guiding values that are critical to keeping Texas prosperous and free.

The Texas Prosperity Promise calls for three vital reforms to our education system. First, Texas must replace its complex school finance system with a student-centered finance system that is focused on funding one thing – the delivery of a top-notch education to Texas public school students. Second, Texas families deserve the freedom to choose the best education possible. The state legislature should empower parents and students—not a bureaucracy— to decide how their education dollars are spent. And finally, lawmakers should remove onerous mandates that hamper student success and, instead, give teachers and school leaders more flexibility to innovate in the classroom.

On property taxes, the state legislature should reduce the crushing burden on home and business owners so that they can truly own their property rather than pay rent to the state forever—and then offset those taxes with state revenue.

And it should rein what local governments – including cities and counties — can spend by limiting property tax revenue increases to no more than 2.5 percent per year without a public referendum.

On spending, state and local officials should operate within their means and adopt responsible, conservative budgets. That means limiting spending increases to no more than 4 percent or population growth plus inflation, whichever is less, to sustain economic prosperity in Texas.

Next, we know that only transparent, accountable government truly serves the will of the people. So, we have focused on two specific reforms that will help to ensure accountability. First, the Legislature should protect taxpayers from funding special interests by prohibiting government from hiring lobbyists. The city of Austin, for example, voted to spend nearly $1 million in public funds on lobbyists in 2016 – mostly to fight measures that Texans widely support, such as tax and spending reforms and ending forced annexation.

And second, we must end automatic contributions to unions by public employees. They are free to join unions and pay dues, but the state of Texas shouldn’t be the unions’ collections arm.

Finally, TPPF recognizes the need to improve civics education for Texas students. Self-government depends on understanding our founding and our history. The state legislature should restore the true intent of existing law that requires, in universities and K-12 schools, the teaching of American history and government, not the weak substitute courses that have become commonplace. It should also focus on strengthening civics education in every Texas secondary school. Similarly, the State Board of Education and university regents should reform our history and civics curriculum to ensure students learn basic American history, government, economics, and Western civilization.

If you support these principles and wish to communicate your support in an effective way to our legislators, we hope you will sign the Texas Prosperity Promise.

https://www.texaspolicy.com/about/prosperitypromise

We know that without considered action, government tends to grow and become more and more involved in our lives. As that Doobie Brothers concert shows, we ought not let that happen.

(Citation for first paragraph: http://www.mndaily.com/article/2013/04/qa-doobie-brother)

This commentary was originally featured in the Midland Reporter-Telegram and Plainview Daily Herald on May 6, 2018.