Where Are the Fiscal Conservatives?

June 1, 2023
Jeramy Kitchen
88th Legislative Session, Budget Surplus, Property Tax, Spending, State Budget

Lost in all of the noise and chaos surrounding the 88th Legislative Session is the fact that Republican lawmakers, who have enjoyed a comfortable majority in the Texas Legislature for the last two decades, ushered in the biggest spending increase in Texas history this session.

Late last week, lawmakers gave brief consideration to the Conference Committee Report for House Bill 1 (HB 1), or the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Years 2024 through 2025. It passed overwhelmingly.

A Brief Timeline

When HB 1 left the Texas House of Representatives on April 6, it included almost $303 billion in total proposed spending. Alone, that represented a 14.3% ($37.8 billion) increase over appropriations made in the previous biennium. A revised version was considered by the Senate on April 17, including $308 billion in total proposed spending, representing a 16.3% ($43.2 billion) increase over appropriations made in the previous biennium.

As HB 1 came back to the Texas House, they requested a Conference Committee be appointed to reconcile the differences and did so on April 21. The Senate responded by appointing its own conferees the following day. Over a month later, on May 24, the Conference Committee Report was filed and the again revised total proposed spending increased, including over $321 billion, representing a 21.3% ($56.5 billion) increase over appropriations made in the previous biennium.

The Senate considered the Conference Committee Report on May 26, ultimately voting 30-1 in favor. The House considered the Conference Committee Report on May 27, ultimately voting 124 in favor to only 22 in opposition. Of the 22 opposed, only four were Republican lawmakers, including State Reps. Brian Harrison (Midlothian), Richard Hayes (Hickory Creek), Matt Schaefer (Tyler), and Tony Tinderholt (Arlington).

State spending has steadily grown over the last 30 years, picking up its rate of growth in the last few budget cycles. Seemingly far gone are the days of the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party movement. Lawmakers increasingly spend with reckless abandon, and voters seldom seem to request fiscal sanity.

You can see a visual representation of that spending growth below. Since 2000, Texas’ population has grown by about 40%. Though that is substantial growth, it is not growth that necessitated an almost 228% increase in government spending in that same time period, even if you factor in inflation. The bottom line is that government has grown, continues to grow, and now—thanks to lawmakers in the 88th Legislative Session—it has grown faster than at any other point in Texas history.

What Does It All Mean?

Ultimately, it means that the total spending ($321.3 billion) will be the new baseline figure when lawmakers determine state spending going forward, continuing the perverse method of appropriating taxpayer dollars by starting from the false premise that all previous spending was responsible and necessary.

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility supported Texas lawmakers adopting a Frozen Texas Budget over the course of this legislative session to ensure that state government gets brought down to its intended size in serving the population, to maximize the nearly $33 billion budget surplus lawmakers faced, and to use the additional revenue to provide maximum property tax relief and a path to the tax’s overall elimination. Sadly, neither proposal was even considered.

Where are the fiscal conservatives? Texas taxpayers should demand better from their lawmakers, especially to ensure future prosperity.

Concerned taxpayers may contact their lawmakers here.

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