Re­spect­ful of tax­payer, ma­jor­ity gov­erns well

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEW POINTS - TWO VIEWS face­book.com/states­man let­ters@states­man. com. Crownover, of Denton, is chair of the Repub­li­can Cau­cus in the Texas House.

In

the spirit of the Christ­mas sea­son, let me be­gin on an op­ti­mistic note. Texas ap­pears to have weath­ered the worst of a storm. Strong con­ser­va­tive fis­cal prin­ci­ples and low taxes have made Texas the eco­nomic envy of the na­tion. Since the Leg­is­la­ture last met, state un­em­ploy­ment has dropped, real es­tate is re­bound­ing, new busi­nesses are lo­cat­ing here, and tax rev­enues are higher than an­tic­i­pated. There is no se­ri­ous talk of tax in­creases or fur­ther cuts in ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing, and the rainy day fund is healthy.

We have the good for­tune of leg­is­lat­ing in a state that is ge­o­graph­i­cally well-lo­cated and blessed with oil and gas tax rev­enues. This has al­lowed us to build great univer­si­ties and hos­pi­tals and fund the ser­vices re­quired of a large, mod­ern state with­out an in­come tax. We are not bur­dened with the huge debt or un­funded li­a­bil­i­ties weigh­ing heav­ily on other pop­u­lous states like Cal­i­for­nia, Illi­nois and New York.

There is no doubt about it: Fis­cally re­spon­si­ble gov­er­nance has led to a strong econ­omy that is at­tract­ing peo­ple to Texas. From 2000 to 2010, Texas pop­u­la­tion grew by over 4.2 mil­lion peo­ple, and by 2030 we are ex­pected to add an­other 7 mil­lion peo­ple. This level of growth brings with it pros­per­ity for our state as well as chal­lenges.

As Repub­li­cans in the Texas House con­front those chal­lenges in 2013, we will be guided by three prin­ci­ples: 1) iden­tify and fo­cus on the core func­tions of government; 2) an­tic­i­pate and pre­pare Tex­ans for the chal­lenges of the next 20 years, and 3) re­spect the tax­payer.

Pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion has al­ways been a core func­tion of our government and re­mains our high­est pri­or­ity. In 2011, bud­get re­straints caused by the re­ces­sion and lower tax rev­enues forced leg­is­la­tors to make some tough and un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sions. Our fo­cus dur­ing the up­com­ing ses­sion will be to write a bud­get that ad­e­quately and eq­ui­tably ad­dresses en­roll­ment growth in pub­lic and higher ed­u­ca­tion. A con­sen­sus is also build­ing among mem­bers to de-em­pha­size the seem­ingly sin­gu­lar fo­cus of stan­dard­ized test­ing in our class­rooms. As­sess­ment and accountability have a place in our sys­tem, but we need to strike a bal­ance, to find a com­mon-sense ap­proach that doesn’t un­der­mine the joy of teach­ing and learn­ing.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices spend­ing, driven by ex­plod­ing Med­i­caid costs, is threat­en­ing our abil­ity to prop­erly fund other core func­tions of state government. Med­i­caid ex­pen­di­tures ac­count for 23 per­cent of the ap­pro­pri­ated bud­get in 2012-13. In 2011, we en­acted $1.8 bil­lion in cost-sav­ing mea­sures for Med­i­caid, but with­out sub­stan­tial re­form at the fed­eral level the Texas bud­get will con­tinue to be strained by Med­i­caid costs. We will con­tinue to urge the fed­eral government to give us the free­dom to de­liver nec­es­sary med­i­cal ser­vices in a more in­no­va­tive and ef­fi­cient man­ner.

Busi­ness is at­tracted to ar­eas with sen­si­ble reg­u­la­tion and a low tax bur­den, but they also seek well-main­tained roads, re­li­able power and an ad­e­quate water sup­ply. If Texas is to con­tinue to grow and pros­per, we must ad­dress th­ese in­fra­struc­ture needs. Pop­u­la­tion growth and a grow­ing econ­omy have in­creased con­ges­tion, pol­lu­tion, and wear-and-tear on our high­ways. Fur­ther­more, the 2012 State Water Plan projects that de­mand for water will in­crease by 22 per­cent in the next 50 years, and un­less we take ac­tion, the avail­able sup­ply of water will drop by 10 per­cent dur­ing the same pe­riod. Repub­li­cans are com­mit­ted to find­ing com­mon-sense and fis­cally sound so­lu­tions to ad­dress Texas’ in­fra­struc­ture needs for the coming years.

Texas Repub­li­cans live by the mantra of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity. How­ever, fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity re­quires more than a balanced bud­get. The debt we pass on to our chil­dren is not mea­sured sim­ply in dol­lars and cents. It is im­per­a­tive that we also pass along well-main­tained roads and bridges, re­li­able en­ergy and water, and most im­por­tantly a well-ed­u­cated work­force pre­pared for the 21st-cen­tury global econ­omy.

There will be 95 Repub­li­can House mem­bers when the 150-mem­ber House con­venes Jan. 8. The House Repub­li­can Cau­cus is made up of men and women who are eth­ni­cally, racially, ge­o­graph­i­cally and philo­soph­i­cally di­verse. We do not all think alike or agree on ev­ery is­sue, but we take our re­spon­si­bil­ity to gov­ern se­ri­ously.

We will con­tinue to work with our Demo­cratic col­leagues and reach con­sen­sus with them when we can, but we are com­mit­ted to writ­ing a state bud­get within the con­straints of avail­able rev­enue. The Amer­i­can-States­man steps back and in­vites con­trib­u­tors to present two points of view on an is­sue that af­fects our read­er­ship.

To join the con­ver­sa­tion, go to

or email taxes. But what does that really mean? A shrink­ing bud­get doesn’t just mean cut­ting Med­i­caid and food stamps. It also means fewer roads and more con­ges­tion, less water in times of record drought, and un­re­li­able en­ergy trans­mis­sion in an en­ergy-rich state.

Our state faces real chal­lenges. There are cities in Texas that are lit­er­ally run­ning out of water. The state’s bi­par­ti­san 1997 water plan now costs $53 bil­lion, up from $17.9 bil­lion in 2002, and the price will only in­crease with time. Not to men­tion, the num­ber of coun­ties and cities with­out ad­e­quate water sup­ply in times of drought also will in­crease.

On trans­porta­tion pol­icy, Texas needs $488 bil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture projects by 2030, ac­cord­ing to the non­par­ti­san Texas Trans­porta­tion In­sti­tute. Yet de­spite this loom­ing cri­sis, Repub­li­cans for the first time in Texas his­tory bud­geted more money to pay the debt on ex­ist­ing road projects than

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