A lot has been said in recent days about the recent budgetary proposals put forward under the leadership of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
Last week, the Senate unveiled SB 15/SJR 3 and SB 16/SJR 4, which would give voters the option to exempt tax and debt relief from the spending cap.
Earlier this week, they unveiled SB 9/SJR 2 which would limit all spending (both state and federal dollars) in our budget to population growth plus inflation and increase the vote requirement to bust the spending cap to a three-fifths majority.
Many Republicans and Democrats alike have criticized the plan as not being fiscally conservative, but failed to see the full picture.
Ironically enough, liberal reporter Chris Hooks gets it, but he doesn’t like it: “If passed, Patrick’s two budget proposals don’t technically contradict—actually, they’d be weirdly toxic (or synergistic, depending on your perspective) in combination, since more and more money would end up on the wrong side of the spending cap, and that money could only be used for tax cuts and debt.” (1)
While to some these policies seem strangely inconsistent, in reality they work in tandem to achieve a noble conservative goal.
Together, Patrick’s proposals constrain the growth of government with a real spending limit and create a system by which the legislature is able to pay off debt during years of surplus and give tax relief without having to break the spending cap.
Additionally, these proposals take a lot of pressure off legislators to spend excessively down the road on education and new entitlements, because they will be limited to a reasonable spending cap and have a difficult threshold to overcome in order to break it.
In a lot of ways, these bills embody a fiscal conservative’s dream for the Legislature — they shrink the size of government while simultaneously ensuring that money is flexible enough to spend on the state’s priorities.
Kudos to the Lt. Governor for keeping his campaign promises.