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By W. Gardner Selby November 20, 2012

Proposed spending cap may be in play during 2013 legislative session

In January 2010, Gov. Rick Perry called for a state constitutional amendment limiting the growth of state spending to increases in inflation and population.

Lawmakers had already been limited to a degree by a cap tied to personal income growth.

But Perry said in a press release from his office that the change "would express our commitment to taxpayer protections in the clearest terms, while increasing the stability and predictability that make Texas such a great place to do business and raise a family."

To make it into the Texas Constitution, a proposal must initially be approved by two-thirds'  margins of the Texas House and Senate. Then it must win voter approval at the polls.

No such proposal was advanced by the 2011 Legislature, though Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier responded to our inquiry about this promise by pointing out proposed constitutional amendments introduced by three House members and a state senator.

House Joint Resolution 42 by Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Katy, filed by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, as Senate Joint Resolution 27, included provisions tying state appropriation increases to combined changes in population and inflation through the previous two-year budget period. HJR 70 by Rep. Ken Paxton of McKinney would have permitted growth to match those factors or others such as the state's economic output, whichever was greater. And HJR 58 by Kelly Hancock of Richland Hills would have provided, by our read, for constitutionally-driven reductions in spending due to deflation or population reductions.

None of the proposals were voted on by legislative committees.

End of story?

Possibly not.

In the April 2012 run-up to party primaries, Perry called on candidates to commit to his Texas "budget compact,” which includes a call for a constitutional amendment limiting spending to population growth and inflation.

According to an April 16, 2012, Texas Tribune news article, Perry told the Tribune the week before: "I think we're at a unique time that we can reset the budgeting game in Texas. We could have well over half the House with one term or less, and maybe five new senators who are considerably more conservative. I've looked at the landscape. I'm going to be the senior statesman, so to speak. This is the time."

Seven months later, according to an Austin American-Statesman news story posted online Nov. 14, 2012, Perry legislative allies echoed his call. The story said Perry"s idea "might get more traction now that more revenue is pouring into state coffers — thus making significant increases in spending possible for the first time in years.” It also quoted Patrick, who had again filed the spending-cap proposal, as saying: "I want to be sure that our taxpayers know that we are going to be fiscally responsible with their money in both good times and bad times, no matter who is in charge of Texas.”

According to the story, population and inflation had increased an average 9 percent every two-year budget period since the mid-1990s. It said the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a limited-government think tank, had estimated that Perry's sought spending cap would have forced total state spending to be $41 billion — or 43.5 percent — less in 2012, if it had been in place since 1990.

Given the latest turns, we are marking this 2010 promise as sufficiently kicking to be In the Works.

Our Sources

Email (excerpted), response to PolitiFact Texas, Catherine Frazier, then-deputy press secretary, Gov. Rick Perry, July 7, 2011

Legislation, 2011 Texas Legislature, House Joint Resolution 42 by Rep. Bill Callegari of Katy; HJR 70 by Rep. Ken Paxton of McKinney; HJR 58 by Rep. Kelly Hancock of Richland Hills

Web page, "Texas Budget Compact,” Rick Perry campaign (accessed Nov. 14, 2012)

News article, "Perry Unveils 'Texas Budget Compact,'" Texas Tribune, April 16, 2012

News article, "Perry, allies look to tighten state spending cap," Austin American-Statesman, posted online Nov. 14, 2012

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