February 17, 2015
A proposed constitutional amendment filed by Sen. Kirk Watson Tuesday would require lawmakers by 2023 to end the deceptive budget practice of using hoarded taxes and fees to certify the budget as balanced.
The constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 33, would give lawmakers ample time to wean the state budget off the billions of dollars that have been collected for a dedicated purpose but never spent. The current two-year budget relies on more than $4 billion in dedicated funds, including those intended to reduce emissions and support trauma care facilities.
“Texans expect us to be honest about how we spend the taxes and fees they pay. Instead, lawmakers have been misleading folks for more than 20 years by hoarding billions of dollars and avoiding the difficult decisions about how to pay for needs of a growing state,” Watson said.
Gov. Greg Abbott included a call for such a constitutional amendment in budget recommendations released Tuesday.
“This amendment is a critical reform that will restore truth in budgeting and ensure dedicated accounts are used only for their intended purpose,” according to the budget recommendations.
Ending the use of dedicated funds has been a central component of Watson’s Honesty Agenda since 2011. Watson has championed increased budget transparency by shedding light on the debt, diversions and deceptions that had become commonplace in the Texas budget.
In 2013, the Legislature began making progress toward reducing the reliance on dedicated funds through House Bill 6. The Legislative Budget Board has recommended another $1.5 billion in reductions for the 2016-17 budget.
“We are well on our way to ending the deceptive reliance on dedicated funds. With this constitutional amendment, we can promise Texans that future Legislatures won’t resort to such deceptive practices again,” Watson said.