Before the 82nd Texas Legislature convened in January 2011, I was one of 79 state legislators who pledged to balance the state budget without raising taxes. I am proud to say my conservative colleagues and I delivered on our promises, which were made as part of our commitment to the conservative legislative agenda of the Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC) called the “Pledge with Texans.” The pledge, which was developed in 2009 and 2010 with significant input and feedback from Texans across the state, was intended to serve as a foundation for conservatives’ long-term goals for Texas.
At the beginning of the regular session, Comptroller Susan Combs projected a revenue shortfall for the 2010-11 biennium, leaving legislators with $9.9 billion, or 2.9 percent, less in general revenues for 2012-13 than they had allocated for the previous two-year budget. Conservative legislators addressed the problem by reducing spending in most areas of government and without increasing taxes.
Through House Bill 275, we appropriated $3.2 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) to pay the state’s then-current bills in the 2010-11 budget. We conscientiously retained approximately $6.5 billion in the fund as an underpinning for the state’s long-term fiscal health, and in anticipation of another revenue shortfall when the 83rd Texas Legislature convenes in 2013.
Even in the face of a revenue shortfall, public education still remains the state’s top priority. We actually increased state general revenue spending on public education by nine percent compared to the last state budget.
In addition to the state budget (HB 1), I joined other TCC pledge signatories in passing other legislation that will generate savings for the state. For example, Senate Bill 7 will improve the efficiency and quality of health care in Texas by reforming the way health and human agencies operate. Senate Bill 8, also signed into law, increases school districts’ flexibility over their workforces and payrolls in a way that makes quality instruction the first priority.
Balancing the budget without raising taxes and scouring the budget to find principled ways to reduce spending was not an easy task. But those of us who signed the pledge followed through with unwavering commitment to being responsible stewards of taxpayer money, preserving vital services, and safeguarding the future of generations of Texans.