Sen. Charles Perry: Can We Keep Texas the ‘Shining City on a Hill?’

Texas State Senator Charles Perry
Charles Perry

This article was authored and submitted to Breitbart Texas by Texas State Senator Charles Perry.

180 years ago tomorrow, Andrew Jackson did something that no president has done before or since — he paid off our entire national debt.

Jackson saw our debt as a “national curse,” an impediment to liberty, and even went as far as to say that it condemned future generations to servitude.

Our national debt was never supposed to be permanent. For a majority of our nation’s history, Constitutional scholars believed the “Borrowing Clause” of our Constitution was intended for emergencies, not for bridging the gap between spending and revenue as we use it today.

Over the years, government has grown exponentially and this mentality has changed. Spending on a national level has ballooned out of control with little momentum towards balancing our budget, paying off our debt, and living within our means.

Even when President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich balanced the national budget and maintained a “surplus” in the late 1990’s, the national debt sat at over $5.5 trillion dollars. A decade and a half later, our national debt currently sits at over $18 trillion dollars.

When it comes to fiscal matters, we do a lot of things right in Texas. Our constitution requires us to balance our state budget each biennium, prohibits collecting a state income tax, and contains a Rainy Day Fund provision that requires us to save for future emergencies and disasters.

We have been blessed with a strong economy, propelled forward by a booming energy sector that has benefited tremendously from technological improvements and oil prices sitting at over $100 per barrel.

While we should be proud of our achievements in Texas, we cannot allow this pride to become arrogance. As we have seen in recent months, oil at $100 per barrel is no longer a reality, so as a state we must look at how to compensate for this lack of revenue.

I have pre-filed several bills aimed towards ensuring Texas remains fiscally sound in the years to come. These common sense measures will increase efficiency and reduce spending, while at the same time making sure that we are prepared for future hardships.

The first of these bills requires each state agency to go through zero-based budgeting during the sunset process. Rather than simply starting with last year’s budget as a baseline, this will require agencies on a regular basis to justify every dollar they spend or reduce spending.

I also filed legislation to limit increases in our budget to population growth plus inflation. This common sense cap will ensure our state spending increases no more than growth.

Budget gimmicks such as diverting dedicated revenue has decreased transparency and caused infrastructure obligations to go underfunded for far too long. I have proposed a bill to eliminate diversions from the state highway fund to begin dealing with this structural problem.

In recent years, the energy boom has blessed Texas’ Rainy Day Fund with unprecedented surplus. The Rainy Day Fund is our state’s savings account and must be preserved in case of emergency. I have proposed legislation to place a floor on the fund at 5% of general revenue, to ensure that we will have money when we need it most.

This Session, for the first time in Texas history, social welfare and entitlement costs will likely exceed education spending. Our Medicaid population is growing at more than three times the rate of our general population (and that is without Medicaid Expansion).

If Texas does not start bending the curve on this trend, our state could look very different in the years to come. We must petition the federal government for waivers and begin crafting Texas solutions now before we reach a point that it breaks our budget.

It won’t be easy, but it is not impossible. Texans are resilient, hard-working people and I truly believe that through innovative ideas and better coordination, we can reduce dependence on government and promote fiscal responsibility.

Texas State Senator Charles Perry represents District 28 in the Texas State Senate. Follow him on Twitter @electcharles.