Taxpayer watchdog groups from the Legislative Budget Board to the Texas Public Policy Foundation have noted the dramatic increase in Texas debt and spending. Our elected representatives have used gimmicks to claim they are overseeing balanced budgets. The games must stop. Texans have tightened their fiscal belts over the last few years. Why haven’t many of our legislators done the same? Texas does not have to go the way of California. Though Texas is now third nationwide in total state debt (right behind California), I believe there are some fiscally responsible reforms that will help us get back on track. These include but aren’t limited to:
*Zero-Based Budgeting: the legislature should adopt zero-based budgeting to ensure a comprehensive analysis of how taxpayer dollars are used for state programs and departments. This is an intensive form of budgeting that creates more accountability and frugal governance; it is a form of budgeting that Texas taxpayers deserve. So I will support a move to zero-based budgeting and would agree to a phase-in by first applying it to a third of the state budget in one biennium and then about a half in the next biennium. Legislators must work to cut non-essential and duplicative government programs while prioritizing essential investments like water development and transportation.
*Constitutional Spending Limit: as the Texas Public Policy Foundation has reported, “between 1990 and 2012, state spending has risen 310% while the sum of population growth plus inflation has grown just 132%.” Our state’s current spending limit applies only to non-dedicated general revenue spending instead of all spending, and the current limit is contingent upon estimating future personal income growth. I support an amendment to the Texas Constitution that will implement a fiscally responsible spending limitation based on population growth and inflation — a limit that applies to all state spending and can only be overridden with a two-thirds vote. Several other states have successfully adopted this stricter spending limit, which prudently uses taxpayer dollars while being able to provide necessary services to the population as it grows.
*Rainy Day Fund: the legislature should work to conserve the Rainy Day Fund for only one-time emergency items or needed tax relief. The Rainy Day Fund should not be a slush fund for legislators to fall back on when they don’t prioritize legislative priorities like transportation. Even when our Rainy Day Fund is tapped, I would work with other legislators to preserve an emergency fund that meets 5% of the state’s general revenue. Texas does not have to spend every single dollar of surplus just because it has it.
*Tackling Local Debt: I recognize that a large portion of our state debt is at the local level; Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has determined that local debt comprises almost four-fifths of our total debt. Texas local debt per capita is the second highest in the nation (second to New York). The legislature can empower citizens and local authorities with the tools to provide better transparency for taxpayers and government accountability. I support requiring transparent debt disclosure during bond elections; I support giving citizens easy online access to see their local taxing authorities’ financial statements and government contracts; I support letting local authorities decide what kind of pension plan is best for their communities (e.g., defined contributions plans/401K).
I will not simply pay lip service with a vague call for limited government; too many politicians already do that. State representatives can no longer simply try to slow down government growth. As conservative Republicans, we must draw a line in the sand and say no more. Now is the time to push back against the liberal agenda and work to shrink government and increase our individual liberties. I intend to go to Austin to fight for limited government and for a return to a constitutional role of governance.
FREE MARKET ECONOMY
Texas must further foster a business climate that is predictable and appealing to businesses of all sizes. I will support a vibrant free market economy where government is not in the business of picking winners and losers. I am determined to phase out the business margins tax, to vote against programs that threaten free-market competitiveness, and to always support pro-growth policies.
By 2060, water demand in Texas will increase by 22% while supply will decrease by 10%. It is critical for the Texas legislature to proactively support long-term water projects. Sadly, the 83rd legislature did not prioritize this important need until the end of the 3rd special session. The legislature’s answer to this problem was passing it off with a constitutional amendment that used our state’s emergency fund. The legislature has already authorized billions of dollars to go to water projects; funds that need to be utilized. Legislators must also make tough decisions in paying for essential services like water projects instead of programs like the one that gave away $95 million to Hollywood film makers. Aside from fiscal measures, I will work as your representative to cut regulations that unreasonably delay long-term water projects for up to 8-10 years. Sadly, state and local regulations also prevent the voluntary redistribution of the existing water supply. Finally, I want the legislature to recognize a landowner’s right to their groundwater in place as acknowledged by the Texas Supreme Court.
TRANSPORTATION, TOLL ROADS, & TAXPAYER ABUSE
Just as with water, transportation is a critical need that the legislature needs to responsibly address — and sadly hasn’t. The majority of revenue raised from the motor vehicle sales tax should strictly go to road construction and maintenance. Moreover, our state highway fund is currently being spent by non-transportation agencies (e.g., Health and Human Services and the Texas Education Agency); as constitutionally designated, I believe that ALL of the state highway fund should go to the Texas Department of Public Transportation (TxDOT) and the Department of Public Safety. Regarding the public-private partnerships (P3s) that TxDOT and the Texas legislature have supported, I view them with healthy skepticism; when government gets into business with private entities, it is usually at the expense of the taxpayer. Thankfully, conservative state legislatures defeated efforts during the 83rd session to require Texas taxpayers to repay private operators and to offload state highway road maintenance costs to 59 cities. This unfunded mandate from the state would have assaulted the sovereignty of our cities and counties. Of particular relevance to District 55, I will oppose efforts to turn I-35 into a toll road — an idea which TxDOT has recently brought up for consideration to impose a toll road from Georgetown to Buda.
SANCTITY OF LIFE
My personal experiences with abortion brought me to realize the devastating psychological and physiological effects abortion has on women, men, and families. That’s why I founded the non-profit Women for Life International, and that’s why I serve as Operation Outcry’s legislative director. I believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. As your representative, I will work to strengthen the gains that Texas has made in protecting the health of mothers and their unborn children.
STATE SOVEREIGNTY & FEDERALISM
The federal government has Texas in its crosshairs. Our state’s sovereignty, as guaranteed in the 10th Amendment, is at stake. I will oppose Washington power grabs in violation of our state’s rights. Effective government is limited government at the local level — not overseen by bureaucrats in DC. I will stand strong against efforts by Washington to limit our liberties and to further place us in debt.
SECURE BORDERS & ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
I believe in the rule of law and will support efforts to increase border security to ensure our homeland security. Where the federal government has faltered, Texas must lead by increasing the role of Texas law enforcement (e.g., Rangers), by adopting advanced technologies, and by conducting targeted operations, so that crime rates decrease and our border is more secure. Hard-earned taxpayer dollars should benefit taxpayers — not individuals who are here illegally. With tuition continually rising and competition over grant money increasing, the Texas legislature must address the fact that illegal immigrants still receive in-state tuition along with taxpayer-funded financial aid.
EDUCATION EXCELLENCE & REFORM
Outside of family and church, I believe our education system is the most important influence on our children. Our economic competitiveness depends greatly upon a well-educated citizenry. So I believe our hard-earned money should be spent in the classroom to benefit our children — not to the benefit education bureaucrats. Teachers should have the freedom to develop each child’s God-given attributes and abilities instead of just teaching to a test. The 83rd Legislature passed some important education reforms, and I will continue that work. I strongly oppose a one-size-fits-all education system that imposes top-down curricula while taking away local control from parents, teachers, and school boards. The federal government should respect its constitutional responsibility and not intrude into our state’s education system. Programs like CSCOPE and Common Core have no place in Texas classrooms. All curricula and lesson planning platforms (including those online) should fall under the supervision of the State Board of Education. I believe children and parents should have the ability to benefit from school choice and from charter schools.
RIGHT TO KEEP & BEAR ARMS
I am an avid fisher and hunter, so I recognize the importance of firearms in American culture; but while responsible gun ownership and hunting are important, our right to bear arms, at its core, is the greatest check against unconstitutional and oppressive government. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “no free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” I firmly support the 2nd Amendment and will work to curtail laws in Texas that curtail our gun rights; correspondingly, I support the passage of open-carry and campus-carry legislation.
PROPERTY TAX & OUR RIGHTS
Nobody should have to rent their owned property from the government. Property taxes have become an unfair burden for many Texans. I will work to reduce or eliminate property taxes. Since the Kelo Supreme Court decision, Texas has passed laws against eminent domain abuse. I will further defend our property rights by supporting legislation that
1) Ensures government takings are strictly for public use as constitutionally required;
2) Gives Texas property owners the ability to repurchase their eminent-domain seized property if it’s not ultimately for public use;
3) Applies property rights protections to municipalities as well as counties so that all Texans have the same remedy against eminent domain abuse.