There they go again.
In what has become a familiar refrain, proponents of making big government even bigger are claiming that past increases in Texas state spending aren’t really as bad as they seem if you make an adjustment here and there.
In this case, we are told that “Texas’ practice” for the last decade has been to live within the “tighter constitutional cap on growth in state spending” that the Foundation and other “staunch conservatives are clamoring for” when the 84th Texas Legislature convenes in January.
While we are happy to discuss the actual growth of past state government spending, we welcome the acknowledgement that controlling the growth of state spending going forward won’t be disruptive.
The Foundation and many other pro-growth groups have called for a Conservative Texas Budget that would limit all state spending—not just the current portion of it that is subject to the constitutional spending cap—to no more than population growth plus inflation. By adopting this approach and limiting total Texas state government spending for 2016-17 to no more than $214 billion, the members of the 84th Texas Legislature will have put the priorities of Texas families over the special interests in Austin.
The most recent dustup over past spending came from a presentation made at the Foundation’s Center for Fiscal Policy primer on the Texas budget yesterday. The claim made was that if the property tax swap adopted in 2006 is accounted for, the increase in Texas spending since that time has been within population growth plus inflation.
To set the record straight, while property taxes for education did dip for one year, state spending on education that year increased more than double the amount of the property tax reduction. And within a year local education property tax revenues were almost back to the old level, and haven’t stopped growing since. Also, none of this accounts for increases in property taxes that might have been made by other government entities to fill the void made by the temporary reduction by school districts.
Whatever benefits some taxpayers may have received from the property tax swap are long gone. To claim that a portion of current state education funding is still paying for a property tax cut is well off the mark.
While understanding the past is important, Texas policymakers now need to look toward the future. By adopting the Conservative Texas Budget, they’d allow Texas families to keep more of their own hard-earned money. By implementing real school choice, they’d empower parents, improve the quality of education students receive, and decrease the steady upward growth in property taxes. And by eliminating the margin tax, they would situate the Texas economy to lead the nation in job growth and prosperity for years to come while reducing Texas’ already low poverty rate.
This is a future that all Texans would benefit from.