Texas Comptroller Susan Combs recently announced the State of Texas will have an estimated $8 billion surplus from the current 2-year budget. When State Rep. Dan Branch (R-Highland Park) stated he wanted to “look at the math” before discussing cutting taxes, the Empower Texans think tank labeled Rep. Branch as a Strauss lieutenant and assumed he wanted to spend the surplus (in simple terms, called Rep. Branch a RINO).
While I am all for lower taxes and spending, shouldn’t we first ensure that the surplus is real and ensure that the real, current needs of the State are met? The fiscal budget still has a few months left, and it would be a hassle trying to recoup an $8 billion surplus that didn’t materialize. The original revenue estimate was wrong (but at least in a positive way), and so could this surplus estimate.
Let’s also consider using surpluses while we have them to invest in infrastructure to handle the growth into the State. Much of the estimated $8 billion surplus came from growth of the economy and population. The roads we currently drive and the water supplies we use cannot adequately handle the influx of more residents into the State. Empower Texans would not approve of a tax increase later on down the road when the need for this infrastructure suddenly becomes more immediate.
Alternatively, we can pay off outstanding debts that those like Empower Texas claim are too high. During the 2012 primary, I discussed county road funding with a constituent who thought the county should save the money over the years instead of issuing bonds to build new roads. The state surplus is a prime example of why this “sinking fund” approach will not work. When conservative voters and think tanks see there’s a surplus of cash, they will demand lower taxes.
Instead of jumping to conclusions, groups like Empower Texans and organized tea parties should first make sure they know what Rep. Branch’s thought process is behind his statement. It’s demagoguery and nitpicking like this that turns many Americans away from the conservative movement. While I share the same concerns as Empower Texans about wasteful spending for pet projects, we shouldn’t assume that not lowering taxes will necessarily result in wasteful spending. Smart investments in infrastructure for the future of Texas will result in a better Texas and, I anticipate, lower future taxes.
Landon M. Estay