About That Fiscal Conservatism
Pardon me for asking the question, but does the Texas Legislature really believe in fiscal conservatism? Does Rick Perry? The Statesman has a story today about the state debt, which has hit $40.9 billion. The reason why a debt problem exists is ideological. The alternative to running the government by issuing debt is raising revenue, but we all know that Republicans dare not risk the wrath of their primary voters by doing that. Perry will never agree to raising taxes.
So which is more fiscally sound? Maxxing out debt and incurring huge interest payments? Or raising new revenue? (By the way, I voted against the highway bonds.) I’d rather pay a gasoline tax than pay my fractional share of the state debt. CPRIT is a case study of borrowing on a whim. The state obligated itself to spend $3 billion and has virtually nothing to show for it except a highly critical audit and some newspaper stories suggesting corruption. At least when we borrow money for highways, we know that we’re going to get a road or two, even if it costs twice as much to build them compared to using gasoline tax revenue.
I’m not suggesting that the state do something radical, like passing a state income tax. I’m just suggesting that the state protect its revenue stream by raising the tax base from time to time. Add a penny to the sales tax here or there, and a dime to the gasoline tax. And tell the public the truth, that borrowing money may seem to be a quick and easy way to build roads, but it’s not. Old-fashioned live-within-your-means budgeting would have saved the state a lot of money.