Saturday, May 27, 2017

#TXLEGE: SB 1 -- "Vote your Conscience" budget....

"So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."
Revelation 3:16

Here's the thing about this budget (that the bible verse quoted above makes clear): We've seen significantly worse villainy from the legislature, but the budget still makes us want to vomit.

Put differently, it's a case where reasonable people can disagree.

TPPF outlines the positive case:
“HB 2 brings Texas to the edge of a historic accomplishment for the 2016-17 biennium, a Conservative Texas Budget when there are no significant funding restraints. Rather than appropriate all the money it had available, the 84th Texas Legislature kept appropriations increases under population growth plus inflation and returned much of the surplus money to taxpayers through a major tax cut. The 85th Texas Legislature has continued this work by proposing spending in HB 2 under the Conservative Texas Budget targets. If the House approves HB 2 as passed by the Senate, the 2016-17 biennium will conclude with fiscal restraint not witnessed in Texas in many years. Considering that government spending must ultimately be paid for by taxes, passage of a Conservative Texas Budget helps keep taxes low—an environment our research demonstrates leads to more economic opportunities for Texans.

“SB 1 makes it possible that this trend could continue. In overall appropriations, SB 1 comes within several millions of dollars of the 2018-19 Conservative Texas Budget target of $218.5 billion—after accounting for the delay of $1.8 billion in transportation appropriations. The 86th Texas Legislature will have approximately $2.7 billion to spend in its supplemental appropriations bill in 2019 in order to remain under the final CTB limit of $221.23 billion for the entire 2018-19 biennium. Though the budget increases public education spending without reforms such as school choice, Texans would benefit from the passage of what would be a second consecutive Conservative Texas Budget.”
A tea party coalition letter [NOTE: Which this author did NOT sign] outlines the negative case:
The $217 billion Conference Committee report for the 2018–2019 biennium budget was distributed to the legislature at 10:00 PM last night (5/25/17). That’s a lot of money. People all over Texas worked very hard to make that money to send to the State.

We are three days away from sine die for the 85th legislative session. House and Senate legislators have not yet reviewed the 970-page budget report. The people of Texas do not have the budget details. Yet, some officials are already trying to tell us what a great budget it is.

It appears that the usual Great Budget Cram-down is about to take place, and frankly, this flies in the face of how Republican leaders define themselves.

Taxpayers demand transparency, not budgets passed before anyone has a chance to know the details. We believe the people paying the freight deserve a little respect.

The people’s elected representatives should know and understand what is contained in the budget. The people of Texas themselves should know what is in that budget. Ramming the budget for the State of Texas through only guarantees one thing – a bunch of surprises. The people of Texas deserve better.

[Note: Emphasis in original.]
And therein lies the rub: the budget [Note: Just barely] comes in under the top line number we requested last summer, but it gets there through gimmicks and a secretive process that funds some pretty terrible things.

And UT gets a last minute increase:
The University of Texas at Austin, whose budget seemed to be on the chopping block a few weeks ago, instead would see a 3 percent increase in legislative appropriations under the two-year state spending plan approved by a House-Senate conference committee.

Senate Bill 1, which the two chambers will consider this weekend, would provide a total of $835.6 million to the flagship campus for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years. That’s about $25 million, or 3 percent, more than its current state funding.

The budget agreed to by House and Senate negotiators includes $12 million for UT’s Dell Medical School, which would have received essentially nothing under the plan previously approved by the Senate.

This budget does some pretty terrible things, but it's NOT a repeat of the 26% spending increase they pushed through two sessions ago.

We don't think anything good will come from moving the goalposts at the last minute.  Technically, they did what we asked for a year ago.  Moving forward, as we seek to "begin a new conversation" on the budget, we think holding up our end of the current bargain helps our credibility.

In terms of letter grades, we would give this budget a "D."  It's a passing grade, but just barely.  And we respect why others will disagree.

Bottom Line: It could be worse...but it also could be a lot better.

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