Tax money should be spent for the purpose it was collected.

What a novel idea. For years the Texas legislature has passed requirements for taxes and fees to be raised for some specific purpose. And for years the revenue has been collected but not spent on those specific purposes: sometimes it is spent on other state needs and sometimes the funds just accumulate in unspent designated general funds.

Sometimes the public knows and sometimes they don’t. The most obvious diversion is spending motor fuels taxes on items that have nothing to do with building roads.

While a legislator can successfully pass a law that says certain revenues are dedicated to a specific purpose, none of those revenues can be spent on that purpose without a legislative appropriation, or in other words without being included in the biennial budget. One action does not necessarily lead to the other.

Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) made these points in an interview published in the Austin American-Statesman. He also set out what he calls an “honesty agenda” for how the legislative budget process should work. He lists many requirements that must be met before he will vote for a state budget. My guess is he will never see all those requirements met, so he should probably be counted as a no vote on the budget for this legislative session.

If you want to know more, read “Watson talks budget reforms.”

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