It takes roughly five minutes to cast your vote here in Texas. Less time than waiting in line for a cup of coffee. This is how fast it will take us, the Texas voters, to decide whether we support or roll back the Legislature’s plan to spend an unprecedented $13.8 billion of our tax dollars.
At stake on November 7 is the largest proposed—you read that correctly—government funding increase in our history. And what results will either embolden Austin to further engorgement or finally put an appropriate check on decades of waste. Texans on both sides of the aisle are tired of runaway spending and crony capitalism. It is, we might say, our one great bipartisan issue.
But the bloated spenders in the Texas Legislature do not of their own accord self-limit. They do not, for instance, take the record-breaking $80 billion in new revenue and give it back to the people for use on property tax relief. No, our politicians spend it, often on pet projects that satisfy no one except for the industries that can employ high-power lobbyists.
Except this round, Austin was constitutionally constrained from spending all the money by the Tax Spending Limit (TSL) in the Texas Constitution, which limits spending growth of “state tax revenues not dedicated by this constitution” to no more than the growth of the state economy.
Crucially, the limits of the TSL can be exceeded if “approved by a record vote of a majority of the members of each house.” But this peculiar clause meant Texas politicians would face another constraint: angry Texas voters who might object to their increasing spending by $56.5 billion while only putting $12.7 billion into property tax relief.
So, our representatives had to get creative. Spending caps don’t exactly bust on their own. Their solution was, by design, meant to deceive. First, they spent money “backward” into the current fiscal year to increase the base from which the TSL is measured. This maneuver allowed them to spend an additional $22.5 billion. Next, they forced voters to break the spending cap through eight—energy funds, broadband, medical products, etc.—propositions on the November ballot to amend the Texas Constitution. This allowed the Legislature to potentially spend another $13.8 billion that otherwise would have been constrained by the TSL.
To the average Texan, all this may feel very behind the scenes, and unfortunately, this is correct. For too long, the Legislature has been run as an insider’s club, where one needs to pay to play, and the little guy has no seat at the table. As true as this may be, we still can claw back some of our power through the ballot box. In this case, it is of decisive importance we vote NO on the constitutional amendments and roll back government spending by $13.8 billion and urge our representatives to do the right thing by making this money available for future property tax relief.
On November 7th, our personal economic future can take one of two paths. The first leads to a robust, resilient, and free conclusion—the second ends in more runaway spending and crony capitalism. Where our journey takes us is now up to us.