What’s The Deal With The Spending Cap?

Posted in The Budget, 80th Legislature at 12:02 pm by wcnews

Raising the constitutionally mandated spending cap is not hard. When the cap was added to the Texas Constitution included was a simple way, if it was ever needed, to raise the cap.

“When the voters established the spending cap in 1978, they gave the Legislature the power to adjust the cap by a simple majority vote,” said Dick Lavine of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “There is no reason to go back to the voters again.”

More than likely, when this cap was added, it wasn’t anticipated that Texas would have to deal with a school finance scheme like the one that was passed last summer, nor the weak leadership we currently have in Texas. This issue was created by the school finance scheme, bad public policy, cobbled together by Perry, Craddick and Dewhurst. Let’s not forget that the only reason the cap is an issue is because of the tax swap scheme they passed. It only makes sense that they raise the cap to allow their tax swap scheme to move forward. That’s what leaders would do. Seriously, if they can’t justify doing this to themselves or their constituents, their reasoning for voting to raise the cap, that’s a pretty damning indictment of the scheme they passed last year. A bunch of scared Republicans that don’t want to accept the consequences of their actions. It would be shocking if it wasn’t such a regular occurrence.

The constitutional amendment route to a solve this is running out of time fast and is all but dead.

The Senate’s longest-serving member said Tuesday that there were enough unhappy senators to block consideration of a proposed constitutional amendment that would link a spending-cap fix to tax cuts for senior citizens.

And in the House, a veteran Democrat said he had faced down GOP leaders with the threat of an embarrassing floor defeat this week if they don’t separate the thorny spending-limit issue and the popular cause of granting tax cuts to elderly homeowners.

Neither Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst nor House Speaker Tom Craddick appears to have a firm feel for which “fix” would be the smoothest way to extricate the Legislature – and the cuts in local school-property taxes that lawmakers approved last year – from a state spending limit that voters approved in 1978.

The Democrats are offering the sensible solution to this Republican made quandary. No wasteful constitutional amendment vote is needed. Here’s Rep. Jim Dunnam’s statement on what should be done.

“I find it incredible that any member of the Legislature would vote to bust the state spending cap without first seeing a real budget,” said Dunnam, who serves as House Democratic Caucus leader. “We are in this position because of the irresponsible fiscal policies of Gov. Rick Perry and (House Speaker) Tom Craddick and four years of budgeting that created this crisis. Busting the state spending cap without first seeing a budget simply gives them another blank check to continue their gross fiscal mismanagement of our state,” Dunnam said. “I agree with the AARP that it is wrong to hold our seniors hostage. We should immediately vote to give Texas seniors the property tax relief they deserve, then separately debate the issue of busting the state spending cap on its own merits. We should have all the information before taking the unprecedented step of authorizing excess spending,” Dunnam said.

Let’s debate the budget, and allow Texans to see what kind of shenanigans Speaker Craddick and his band of far-fight Republicans are going to try, before we allow them to bust the spending cap. Sounds reasonable.

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