The Dallas Morning News recently found another example of the state legislature’s idea of a balanced budget. The $46 million received from red-light camera fines, intended for trauma centers throughout Texas, were used for non-dedicated purposes. Dedicating funds in the budget is essential to understanding why money is being taken from taxpayers. This re-appropriating dedicated fund is a gimmick. It is known as sweeping. Sweeping is a way of evading the constitutional requirements to balance the budget. The $46 million gives yield to the current estimate of $5 Billion the legislature is sweeping in total. Add that to the $2 billion still owed to public schools and the $5 billion still owed to Medicaid and a screeching halt may be warranted at the total $12 billion deficit.
It might appear as though Texas is hitched to the federal mentality of speeding through the budget and keeping the reckless mess left behind in the rear view mirror. However, we Texans are supposedly protected from such spendthrift budgeting with a stop at the state constitution. Article 3 section 49(a)(b) states the intent that no bill shall be considered passed if the amount appropriated is not within the amount estimated to be available in the effected future. There is an exception, which is in the event of an emergency and imperative public necessity. Is re-appropriating red light fine revenue an imperative public necessity or an emergency? What about the Motor Fuels Tax (gas tax), is re-appropriating $1.2 Billion in revenue instead of road maintenance imperative? How about the system Benefits Fund or the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan? If the taxes are not being used for the dedicated purpose the funds should given the green light to be returned to the citizens. Re-appropriating dedicated funds without voter consent is like buying a used car and having to pay the previous owners speeding tickets.
The legislature has lost touch with whose money they are managing. Texas tax revenue doesn’t belong to the legislatures it belongs to the people. Funds that are not going to be used for their dedicated purpose should be returned to Texans. The monies aren’t theirs to make deals with special interest groups or trade amongst each other for quid pro quo earmarking. Households have to live within their budgets and it is time legislators tow the line and do the same.