During the past few legislative sessions, our elected officials in Austin have openly bragged about balancing our state’s budget. What they fail to tell the people about are the gimmicks and budgetary tricks they contrived to get around doing something that is not merely suggested, but is mandated by the Texas Constitution. Much like families all across our state who’ve had to tighten their belts, it’s high time that our elected officials in Austin quit spending money that is NOT theirs and that we the taxpayers simply do not have. The bottom line is very simple: the more government spends and grows, the less we are free.
There is a planned budget shortfall of billions of dollars that must be addressed by the next Legislature. It is imperative that we have Representatives who understand that Texas does not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem! Serious cuts to the budget are the only answer for a balanced budget, and that includes a major reformation of our two largest budget items: Education and Medicaid.
[Note: If you take the time to watch this eye-opening video on the Texas Budget Boondoggle, you will be better informed on the Texas budget than many of our incumbent legislators!]
All state agencies and departments must rebuild their budgets from the ground up – zero-based budgeting - which has proven effective in cutting deficits. Currently Texas is floundering with baseline budgeting merely builds on the government’s preceding spending base, thus providing no natural constraints on spending. Zero-based budgeting, by contrast, involves a start-from-scratch process in which each agency must prove the value of its services instead of automatically having them funded under an assumption of necessity.
Talmadge Heflin, former head of the Texas House Appropriations Committee and currently a director at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, says with zero-based budgeting the “Legislature not only eliminated the state’s $10 billion shortfall in 2003 without raising taxes, but also cut general revenue spending for the first time since World War II and helped create an environment of low taxes and spending that spurred the Texas economy for the rest of the decade.”
I also think the Legislature would be prudent to implement performance-based budgeting, or “budgeting for outcomes,” which goes even further by measuring effectiveness. It involves identifying the core functions of government, requiring agencies to rank their activities based on priority, setting up effectiveness measurements, and then ranking programs according to their measured effectiveness. Bob Williams, founder of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, explains how performance-based budgeting helped Washington balance its state budget in 2003 without raising taxes, “The conventional budgeting approach ignores the efficiency and effectiveness of existing state programs. Rarely is the question asked about how existing programs can be improved or how can we maximize the return on the tax dollars that are collected.”
Let’s turn our hard-earned tax dollars into sound investments in the smallest state government possible. Let’s make our invested tax dollars WORK, and not continue to waste them on Legislators’ personal pet projects, defunct agencies that should’ve long ago been sunsetted, and programs that are NOT mandated by our Texas Constitution.