AUSTIN – The Texas Public Policy Foundation today released The Real Texas Budget, an overview of Texas appropriations and spending from 2004 through 2015. The report’s authors, the Foundation’s Talmadge Heflin, Director of the Center for Fiscal Policy, Vice President for Research Bill Peacock, and Dr. Vance Ginn, Center for Fiscal Policy Economist, sifted through numerous complex budget reports and accounted for legislative budget devices to catalogue for taxpayers how much of their tax dollars the state of Texas actually spends.
“The Real Texas Budget allows Texans to hold policymakers accountable by making state spending and the budget process more transparent,” said Heflin. “Increased accountability and transparency will help sustain the Texas model that has contributed to our vibrant economy and robust job growth.”
“Since the beginning of FY 2004, total biennial spending for Texas government has grown by $77.8 billion, or 62.7 percent,” said Ginn. “It has also increased 8.8 percent faster than the growth in inflation and population, at a cost to taxpayers of $16.3 billion this biennium. The increase in spending above population growth plus inflation since 2004 will cost the average family of four $1,200 this year.
“Total Texas state government spending for 2014-15 is estimated to be $201.9 billion, a 9 percent increase over the previous biennium, said Peacock. “The actual percent increase in state spending is almost 80 percent greater than shown in the state’s official budget documents. Taxpayers should demand greater transparency from the state.”
Total Texas government spending from 2004-05 through 2014-15 will be about $1 trillion. Yet official budget documents do not accurately portray the increase in spending during this period. The main reason for this is $6.1 billion in patient income spending that simply disappeared from the budget in 2014-15. Without adjustments being made for this when reporting on spending in previous bienniums, official budget reports understate how much government spending has grown.
The Real Texas Budget also highlights how the difference in initial appropriations versus actual spending in a biennium makes it difficult for Texas taxpayers to accurately assess the size and scope of their government.
To improve transparency in the budget process, the report’s authors call for public access to near real-time budget data online and changing the biennial appropriations bill so that the appropriation for each agency is listed by program rather than in the current strategic format.
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.
Bill Peacock is the Vice President of Research and Director of the Center for Economic Freedom at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D., is an Economist with the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.