Democrat Bill Hobby was Texas lieutenant governor when the current cap on state spending became law during the seventies. Hobby, in an op-ed in today’s Houston Chronicle, contends that proposals for additional caps go too far and would harm the state’s ability to recover from recession cuts. He is particularly critical of SB 9 by Kelly Hancock. The entire piece is worth a read, but here’s an excerpt:
But at the same time, SB 9 and other proposals made by Senate leadership would exempt certain items from the cap, such as tax “rebates” or general revenue appropriations that would be used to pay down state debt. So the overall result would be a tighter cap with more loopholes. Not surprisingly, this has drawn criticism from fiscal conservatives who see the Senate exemptions as “gimmicks” that threaten fiscal discipline.
The House, meanwhile, has not seriously entertained any spending cap changes as ideologically motivated as SB 9. But one proposal by the House transportation chair would constitutionally dedicate some existing general tax revenue to highways, in effect creating a way around the spending cap while further limiting future legislatures’ budget flexibility. The House’s chief budget writer has yet another constitutional amendment that would have the effect of exempting some state debt service from the spending cap.
In my legislative experience, one person’s worthwhile exception is another person’s gimmicky loophole. If exceptions for tax cuts or debt payments are such a good idea, why not make exceptions for education or border policing or mental health?
There will be a tendency to dismiss Hobby as a big-spending Democrat. I couldn’t find earlier numbers, but during Hobby’s final years in office when the state was in a recession, the budget grew by less than 5 percent. So even if, in the end, you don’t agree with Hobby, his arguments are well worth considering.