— By STATE SEN. CRAIG ESTES
Texas is the 14th largest economy in the world and is roughly the same size as the economy of Australia. With such a large economy, the hard-working people of our great state expect their leaders in Austin to provide for the critical infrastructure needed to keep our economy strong, such as water, transportation and public education, while balancing the budget and without raising taxes.
I am proud to say the budget enacted by the 83rd Texas Legislature does all of that in a responsible, reasonable and conservative way. It addresses the needs of our fast-growing population, which grew by 1,176 people per day, every day, from 2000 to 2010.
It stands to reason that as more than 1,000 people move to Texas every day because it is a great place to live, work, and raise a family, the more we will need to spend on roads, water and schools. Consequently, we increased funding for public education, roads and water infrastructure. Funding for public education was increased by $4 billion, transportation by $850 million, and for the first time ever the legislature acted to fund the state water plan that, if approved by the voters, would appropriate $2 billion from the Rainy Day fund to a loan program that would allow water districts and cities in North Texas and all over the state to finance desperately needed water projects. The overall budget, however, increased at a rate not exceeding population growth and inflation. This budget keeps Texas on top, and is neither wasteful nor reckless.
Recently, however, a few people and special interest groups have suggested that the Texas budget is not as conservative as it should be. They claim the budget spends $106 billion compared to $84 billion from two years ago. They cite that this is a whopping 26 percent increase of $22 billion in just two years.
They are just plain wrong. While they are entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to their own set of facts.
According to the non-partisan Legislative Budget Board, the “All Funds” appropriation (Texas dollars + federal dollars) for this budget is a modest 3.7 percent larger than the last budget. Additionally, when adjusted for inflation, population growth and local property tax relief, the Texas budget is actually 11.7 percent smaller than it was 10 years ago. The $106 billion is an inflated number – its fuzzy math that counts nearly $12.5 billion worth of spending that it shouldn’t. They count supplemental funding to pay for Medicaid, wildfires and public school expenses from the last budget, tax and fee cuts, and reductions in fee diversions to promote budget transparency. They also count $650 million that we didn’t even spend!
We wrote a conservative budget that addresses the state’s priorities in education, veterans’ services, Medicaid fraud reduction and mental health services. Taxpayers and families are better served if people with serious mental health issues can seek proper treatment before they end up in our criminal justice system or worse. Clearly, those who claim Texas spending is way up are being selective in the numbers they use.
Most conservative Texans understand this and support the new budget, like the Texas Association of Business and Governor Rick Perry. We live in a great and growing state and we have passed a state budget that is conservative, thoughtful, and frugal. I am proud to serve all of you in Senate District 30 and God bless Texas!
Estes serves nearly 820,000 constituents across Senate District 30 which includes all of Archer, Clay, Cooke, Erath, Grayson, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Wichita, Wise, and Young counties and parts of Collin and Denton counties.