2013 Lege–Constitutional Limit on Spending

Dick Lavine, Senior Fiscal Analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities

Should the legislators you elect be trusted to decide how large the state budget should be, or should a rigid limit be written into the Texas Constitution so that future budgets are locked into a formula set in stone?

Texas currently has a constitutional provision that caps growth in spending from certain taxes at the rate of economic growth in the state.

This is a reasonable restriction, since economic growth – measured by growth in personal income – is an indicator of the ability of Texas taxpayers to support public services.

In fact, because Texas’s tax system is usually unable to even keep up with the economic growth and the growth in need, the state budget is more often handicapped by the lack of available revenue than by this spending cap.

Because of our inadequate revenue system, Texas remains a relatively low-spending state, ranking 47th in overall state government spending and 43rd in state aid per pupil. The limit can be overridden, if necessary, by a majority vote of the Legislature.

A major battle this legislative session will be over severely restricting the ability of future legislators to decide the proper amount of state services. Several bills have been filed to  lower the spending cap, expand the limitation to all state spending, and make it harder to adjust the limit.

This unreasonable constraint could put out of reach the option of increasing investments in education, health and human services, and water and transportation infrastructure needed to ensure future prosperity for all Texans. We will be tracking these proposals, explaining their dangers, and informing you of what you can do to preserve a hopeful future.

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