February 19, 2009
Texans deserve to know how the state spends their money.
They have the right to trust that the park fees, utility charges and other bills they pay to the state will be used in the ways leaders promise.
They deserve full electronic access to the state’s books so they can answer basic questions with a few keystrokes.
And they should rest assured that the state will sustain initiatives that the public supports – programs that bolster the economy by protecting children, small businesses and all Texans.
Such public awareness is the essence of transparency. It’s something the state must do far more to create, and it should start with the state budget.
If most Texans think of the state budget at all, it’s as a massive pile of numbers and jargon, virtually impossible to navigate. They know little about how it works, except for a few damning facts:
All of this as taxes continue to rise and those entrusted with your money rush session-by-session, from one crisis to another, without even beginning to articulate a long-term vision for the state.
We cannot change these trends without first understanding how the state and its budget function. With bigger, brighter windows into state government, we can not only establish trust with leaders at the Capitol, but also verify that they’re working for all Texans.
I have filed a package of bills to reform the state budget, offering a new way of doing business at the Capitol and helping guarantee that it’s really the people’s business we’re doing. The measures would:
These reforms would take on many of the bad habits and poor decisions that have chiseled away the public’s trust over the years. While the measures are significant and far-reaching, every one of them offers a sensible, responsible, conservative strategy for fixing problems that have bedeviled legislators and taxpayers for generations.
These aren’t partisan issues. This is the way government is supposed to work. I’m proud that different parts of this plan have the support of liberal and conservative groups alike.
Perhaps most importantly, these bills won’t aggravate an already tough budget situation this year, but instead will take the time we need to put Texas on a more responsible, open and honest path to writing budgets and spending money.
I know fixing these problems won’t be easy. In many cases, they have been festering for years, and they’re not going to go away in just a month or two. It will take hard work, discipline, cooperation and some sacrifice over the next two years to correct all of these practices.
But the state can’t keep idly procrastinating and making excuses, particularly in these tough economic times.
In fact, the lean state budget makes this the perfect time to finally face up to these challenges. This is already the season for hard choices. If we fix these longstanding problems and end these bad habits, Texas will emerge from this difficult time stronger and more open than ever.
It’s time to prove that budget transparency is important to Texas.