This week in the Legislature…
I hear the phrase “we shouldn’t tie the hands of future legislators” anytime we look at structural improvements to the way we govern the state. While I have no doubt about the good intentions of the men and women who tell me this, I also have no doubt that the Texas Constitution and all of human history makes it remarkably clear that constraining the behavior of politicians is so important that I would rather tie the hands of those in power too tightly than not tightly enough.
Let’s look at a few ways that our state’s constitution has limited the power of legislators. The constitution limits the Legislature to meeting 140 days every two years, restricts our government spending growth to the rate of growth in personal income across the state, and severely restricts our ability to borrow. Finally, when we are forced to balance the budget, have it certified by a separate state-wide elected official and not allowed to leave Austin under threat of DPS restraint until that budget is passed, our hands are quite literally tied.
It is the restrictions on the behaviors of our elected state officials that have been instrumental in making sure Texas remains a limited-government economic powerhouse. To find a legislative body which doesn’t have its hands tied tightly enough, you need look no further than the United States Congress. Congress constantly says yes to adding and expanding program after program without ever collecting the taxes to pay for them. They can do this because their hands are not tied on the use of debt. As a result, our federal government is over $18,000,000,000,000 in debt. I am glad that Texas has not embraced that model.