AN OPEN & HONEST TEXAS BUDGET
Senator Kirk Watson files package of bills to end budget diversions, increase transparency, and assure coverage of state priorities
AUSTIN — Senator Kirk Watson today filed a package of reforms to make the Texas budget – and the process of writing it – more open and honest.
Senator Watson's six bills would illuminate the way legislators spend taxpayer dollars, and they would inject widely shared public values – transparency, economic foresight, and fiscal responsibility – into the budget-writing process. The package would challenge years and even decades of bad budgeting habits.
"These reforms are about making a positive change and putting the Legislature in touch with Texans," Senator Watson said. "These bills will help citizens see how legislators are spending their money. They'll help ensure Texans are receiving the things they want and expect their state to invest in."
While many of the changes are significant and far-reaching, each also proposes a sensible, responsible, conservative strategy for fixing problems that have bedeviled legislators and taxpayers alike. Different pieces of Senator Watson's plan have the support of liberal and conservative groups alike. And most would have little to no impact on the already strained 2010-11 budget.
"My package would require the state to spend money in ways state leaders have always promised – and it would prevent leaders from diverting taxpayer dollars as they have for a generation," Senator Watson said. "It also would create an unprecedented Internet program that will answer the public's questions, not just those that budget writers choose to answer. And it would mandate support for small businesses, kids and the economy by bolstering programs that everyday Texans need and support."
Senator Watson's budget reforms include:
- S.B. 736, which would end the practice of diverting money away from the things people think it's going for – ending a system that allows the Legislature to spend billions of dollars without openly saying where they're coming from.
- S.B. 737, which would create an unprecedented Internet transparency system allowing Texans to see exactly how legislators are budgeting taxpayer money.
- S.B. 738, which would review the programs and operations in most state agencies from top to bottom, ensuring that government is as efficient and self-sufficient as possible and isn't needlessly relying on tax dollars that could be going to schools and health care.
- S.B. 739, which would move Texas Performance Reviews – an essential function that monitors how government works – out from under the legislature's control so legislators aren't "grading their own papers" when it comes to effectiveness and accountability.
- S.B. 740, which would protect small businesses by increasing the state's business tax exemption.
- S.J.R. 21, which would amend the state constitution to ensure that Texas is not only protecting the health of our kids, but also recouping the hard-earned tax dollars that Texans send to Washington to pay for children's health care.
In filing the bills, Senator Watson acknowledged that resolving these issues won't be easy. He noted that "it will take hard work, discipline, cooperation, and some sacrifice" to fix these problems. But he also called on the legislature to take action and not look for excuses.
"This is already the season for hard choices," Senator Watson said. "If we fix these longstanding problems and end our bad habits, Texas will emerge from this difficult time stronger and more open than ever."