The Honesty Agenda consists of more than a dozen pieces of legislation that would open the budget process to Texans, make information widely available about the state’s finances, and enhance citizens’ power over the state’s treasury. This reform agenda will rebuild trust with Texans by giving them an unprecedented look into the state’s books. It will bridge both the fiscal deficit and the honesty deficit in the Texas budget.
These reforms will play a vital role in getting Texas through its budget crisis. Budget writers, who used savings and one-time federal stimulus money to balance the current budget, are also likely to rely on savings and one-time accounting gimmicks to balance the next one.
Such likely actions make it even more important for the state to address the structural problems in the budget, so these one-time tactics will not put Texas in even worse condition in 2013 or 2015.
For too many years, the budget has incorporated a toxic mix of debt, diversions and deception. I simply don’t believe our state would be in this position if Texans had better information – and the ability to get better information – about how their money is raised and spent. As those in control contemplate using any means necessary to regain the state’s fiscal footing, they must also commit to fixing the problems that their tactics would likely worsen if left unaddressed.
Until we get answers, we’ll be left with the same uncertainty that’s defined this issue for months. We’re still being subjected to the same problems that cause Texans to criticize the budget process for not being open and transparent, and for failing to tell the public how our money is spent.
My Honesty Agenda will open avenues for Texans to get information about both the state’s financial condition and legislation affecting it. It will modernize government, allowing legislators and voters to have faith in decisions that will decide Texas’ fate in the 21st Century. And it will enlist industry leaders – especially those with experience in balancing private-sector budgets – to help the state sustainably balance its budget and make infrastructure and educational investments that Texas will need to remain competitive in the 21st Century economy.
“These are basic, balanced strategies. Many of them are common in the private sector,” Senator Watson said. “Make no mistake: this legislation won’t simply help avoid future budget crises in Texas. It will help solve this one, too.”