May 16, 2013
For a generation, Texas budget writers have been taking your taxes and fees, promising to spend the money on worthy causes such as clean air, utility bill relief, parks, clean air, or trauma care, and then quietly diverting that money to coverup holes in the budget.
Last session, nearly $5 billion was diverted in this way. So this was supposed to be the session that changed for good. Those in control came into the session talking about taking steps to end the state’s reliance on diversions and deception — park fees would pay for parks; clean air money for cleaner air; utility fees for utility relief … The list goes on.
So what’s really happened? Not much. They buried my proposed constitutional amendment that would have put the state on a firm course to ending diversions of these dedicated funds — but my Senate Joint Resolution 24 never even received a hearing.
And the House passed a bill that would continue the same old deceptive way of doing business, except it would put a cap — one that would expire in just two years — on the total amount of money they could divert.
Initially, that cap was set at $4.8 billion, practically what’s being diverted now. The current version has a slightly lower cap of $4 billion, and it still expires in two years. There’s still no plan for breaking this bad habit.
That’s like someone vowing not to drink anymore, but instead quietly deciding to just drink a little less for a while.
Will those in control reform the budget to create honest accounting and more transparency? Or will this be another missed opportunity?