HB11 died on a Point of Order raised by Rep. Sylvester Turner (Rule 8, Section 21).
As I understand it, the Rule finds that because the budget has passed through the chamber, no appropriations bills (which HB11 is/was because it appropriated monies) can move forward until the budget has been signed by the governor and certified by the Comptroller.
All of the drama could have been avoided if rather than tapping the Economic Stabilization Fund to fund a new water program, appropriators had simply used the $8 billion in new revenues and built it into the budget. Water infrastructure is critical, but just as critical is the structure of the funding program.
This would seem to also apply to HB19 — another ESF draw, this one for water and roads.
(The Democrats fought against HB11 because they want more spending on education — despite billions more being tucked (almost daily, it seems) into education.)
As a point of historic perspective, I came across the afternoon the language that was on the ballot in November 1988 creating the Economic Stabilization Fund (the rainy day fund). This is what voters agreed to:
“The constitutional amendment establishing an economic stabilization fund in the state treasury to be used to offset unforeseen shortfalls in revenue.”
This is very important to remember. If as conservatives we truly believe in the Rule of Law and the principle of self-governance, then we should be careful about exceeding the bounds of what the people enacted. Using the ESF as a funding source for causes de jour — even a good cause de jour — isn’t what the voters were told they were getting.
If we think the ESF should have broader uses, then let’s try to change the constitution. One great idea has been floated by Rep. Van Taylor of Plano, turning the revenues generated by the ESF into an endowment for infrastructure. That idea should be seriously examined.
We have to get infrastructure right; there is no choice. We cannot wish it into existence. On the other hand, we cannot turn a blind eye to governance issues.
Hopefully today’s action will spur each of us on to find the right solution that provides for Texas’ needs without draining Texans’ pockets, to build a stronger policy foundation without setting dangerous precedent.
P.S. — For what it is worth, the ruling seems to validate the concern — if not the actual question — over whether or not HB11 violated the spending limit. With the budget having left the chamber, it needs to be certified and signed before new dollars can be appropriated.
Michael Quinn Sullivan
President, Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility
PO Box 200248, Austin, TX 78720