Representative Phil King (R-Weatherford) successfully passed an amendment to House Bill 1, the state budget bill for Fiscal Years 2012-2013, that prevents $100 million of new broad-based fees from being implemented on unsuspecting Texas taxpayers. Rep. King and fellow conservative house members successfully rallied the troops and overwhelmingly passed the amendment, putting all of their colleagues on the record on where they stand on hoodwinking the public and allowing $100 million of backdoor taxes to be implemented.
In light of the budget shortfall some state lawmakers tried to get around the whole no raising taxes pledge by allowing the state agencies to raise numerous fees that they are statutorily allowed levy.
It is possible for legislators to raise fees in the general appropriations bill, HB 1. With the passage of King’s amendment one needs to pass separate legislation explicitly allowing a fee increase along with a rider passed in HB 1. This adds one more step of accountability to the process of raising fees and makes our elected officials be on the record voting for or against a proposed fee raise. Certain third party organizations might use these votes as a part of their ratings system, like the Young Conservatives of Texas and Empower Texans.
The proposed fee increases in HB 1 that now have to get prior legislative approval includes fees state agencies charge, traffic fines, user fees and exam fees at some licensed professions.
Rep. King stated that,
As a state we are facing a large projected budget shortfall for next biennium,” King stated, “Businesses small and large across Texas are doing what it takes to balance their checkbooks in a fiscally responsible manner, and it is critical that the state government conduct business in the same way. By implementing a hiring freeze and balancing our state budget without raising taxes or fees, we can save precious dollars during a time when every dollar counts. These funds can be directed to the critical services our state provides, such as educating our children.
HB 1, which was passed by the House of Representatives late Sunday night, cuts $23 billion of spending out of state government. This represents a 12.3% reduction in spending from the previous biennium. HB 1 will next go to the Senate for approval.
Do you think raising fees, even user fees, is the same as raising taxes?