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Autopsy Report: Legislation Passed to Strengthen Spending Limits

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It has a been a longtime goal of fiscal conservatives to strengthen the state’s limits on spending. During the 87th Legislative Session this year, a big step was made toward that goal.

Texas’ current constitutional spending limit—defined statutorily for years as projected growth in personal income—only applies to state tax revenue not dedicated by the Constitution, which constitutes about half of the total state budget.

Legislation passed this session will change that.

The History

The fight for strengthening Texas’ constitutional spending limits didn’t begin this session. For years, citizens have fought to put a stronger limit in place.

In 2012, Republicans overwhelmingly voted in their primary election to support stronger spending limits.

Unfortunately, efforts to actually do so were stalled for years.

In 2015, then-State Sen. Van Taylor (R–Plano) filed legislation, but it never received a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. 

In 2017, legislation by State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R–North Richland Hills) to place six additional categories of the budget under the spending cap passed out of the Texas Senate. Unfortunately, it was watered down in the Texas House, which was led by House Speaker Joe Straus. Ultimately, the bill failed to reach the governor’s desk.

The item was subsequently put on the call for a special session by Gov. Greg Abbott later that summer. 

But when the bill was brought before the body for a vote, Democrat State Rep. Chris Turner (Fort Worth) called a point of order, challenging consideration of the bill on procedural grounds. 

Straus upheld the point of order.

In a rare move, some Republican members utilized the rules of the House to attempt to overrule Straus’ decision. Such a maneuver requires 10 members to make the motion and a simple majority to overrule.

The motion was unsuccessful, however, when a number of Republicans joined

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