Darby: Texas House Bills 6 and 7 Will Make State Budget More TransparentPress Release
AUSTIN -- A pair of proposals filed Monday continues budget transparency reforms began last session to reverse the two-decade-old practice of collecting fees for one purpose and using them instead to certify other areas of the state budget. At a press conference today, Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton) and Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) announced the goal of their legislation is to reduce unspent balances down to $3 billion from the current use of $4.2 billion used to certify the 2014-15 State Budget.
Since 1991, unspent funds in General Revenue-Dedicated accounts have been used to help certify the budget. These bills ensure that this practice will become a thing of the past, funds collected for a specific program will be spent that way, and allow for the elimination or reduction of unnecessary fees.
Increasing budget transparency is a top priority of House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). Last session, Representatives Otto and Darby passed House Bills 6 and 7 to curtail the use of dedicated funds for budget certification by over $1 billion. These bills were both signed into law and marked the first time since 1991 that the State Budget used a significantly lower amount of unspent balances to certify the budget.
"The Texas House is committed to making our budget more transparent and accountable," Speaker Straus said. "We made significant progress on this issue last session and we'll make further progress in the weeks to come. Taxpayers should know that the taxes and fees they pay will be used as promised, and I want to thank Chairmen Otto and Darby for continuing to lead this effort."
House Bill 6 by Rep. Otto addresses the amount of unspent money in General Revenue-Dedicated accounts that can be counted for budget certification.
"This is a significant first step toward making our budget more transparent and ensuring that fees are used the way Texans would expect," Rep. Otto said. "These bills reverse the trend of the last 20 years and set us on a course toward a more straightforward budget. This is a responsible, appropriate response to a problem that has built for many years."
House Bill 7 by Rep. Darby clarifies the appropriate uses for these accounts, and provides an opportunity to eliminate and reduce the fees paid by Texas citizens and businesses. Some accounts where balances are sufficient for appropriations, House Bill 7 directs fees be suspended or ended entirely.
"These bills, along with the work of Chairman Otto and the House Appropriations Committee, allow the State to lower fees and work toward a more honest and straightforward budget that brings excess revenues in line with conservative budgeting," Rep. Darby said. "These steps lessen the dependence on balances for certification and lay the foundation for future Legislatures to lower or eliminate additional fees."
These bills are in response to a February 2015 report by the Legislative Budget Board entitled "Further Reduce Reliance on General Revenue–Dedicated Accounts for Certification of the State Budget".