DALLAS — Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Monday for a state constitutional amendment to link and limit increases in state spending to population growth plus inflation.
Perry said a strict constitutional limit on state spending is needed to replace the current restriction based on growth in personal income.
“By keeping tighter reins on our spending, we can build a more solid, predictable economy that doesn’t put off tough decisions until it’s too late to deal with them,” Perry said at a news conference in Houston. “And by that I mean we want to be sure, constitutionally sure, Texas never turns into Washington, D.C.” He called on lawmakers and legislative candidates to adopt his five-part Texas Budget Compact before the party primaries on May 29.
“Each and every member of the Legislature or anyone aspiring to become a member of the Legislature should sign on,” Perry said. “We are approaching a 2013 legislative session that offers a very clear choice in the direction we’ll be going as a state in the years, and even decades to come.”
He said he would not demand that lawmakers actually sign a promise to adhere to the plan.
“No, there’s not a pledge that we’re going to have for anyone to sign,” Perry said. “We hope people will read this, find something they can put their full faith and support behind.”
His plan includes a more transparent state budget process, no new taxes, restrictions on use of the rainy-day fund to one-time emergencies, and elimination of “unnecessary and duplicative” agencies and programs.
The House Democratic Caucus head, Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston, said the Republican governor was asking legislators “to blindly sign a blood oath that will result in a doubling down of the devastating cuts already made to public schools, colleges and universities. The plan is a mismanagement of the tax dollars.”
The unveiling of the budget plan was Perry’s first public policy statement since Jan. 19, when he ended his failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said Perry’s budget plan would harm middle-class Texans “and others who can least afford it.”
Watson, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said Perry has consistently resisted a more transparent state budget process.
“The truth is that over his tenure, those in control of the Legislature have become increasingly dependent on debt, diversions, deception and denial when it comes to the state’s finances,” Watson said. “Repeated calls for reform have been rejected or ignored.”
The Legislature will convene for its biannual session in January 2013. The 2011 Legislature cut $20 billion from state spending in fiscal 2012 and 2013 due to revenue declines and the end of federal stimulus programs.
Higher-than-expected state revenues so far in fiscal 2012 is not a prompt to increase spending in the next two-year budget cycle, Perry said.
“It’s important that we don’t interpret higher sales tax collections as a license to spend freely, when it’s actually an opportunity to make our budget more sound,” he said.
Sales tax collections in the first seven months of the fiscal year are up 13% from the same period of fiscal 2011.