Monday, February 22, 2010


I learned a long time ago that "Nothing is ever easy." At least when it comes to accomplishing significant goals, be it in business or sports or, especially, politics. So when I declare that I will fight to lower taxes extensively, the first question that should come to mind is just how do I plan to accomplish this?

The answer: Lower the size of the Texas State Budget by aggressively utilizing the power and scope of the Sunset Act.

In 1977, the Sunset Act established a process to regularly evaluate approximately 150 Texas state agencies and to assess whether their missions were still needed as well as to evaluate the efficiency of their operations. Under the process, each agency must perform for the Sunset Commission a self-review of its roles and responsibilities, including areas in which its duties may overlap those of other agencies and the effect of the agency's abolition on loss of federal funding. Every agency, no matter how big or important, must succumb to this review by an independent body made up of professional staff, attorneys and representatives of the Texas Senate, House and the public.

Since its inception, 58 agencies have been abolished and another 12 agencies have been consolidated. The fiscal impact of Sunset recommendations over time can be estimated through fiscal note data. Bureaucracies such as the Poultry Improvement Board and the Texas Indian Commission have ceased to exist while the Occupational Therapy and the Physical Therapy Boards were combined. Estimates from reviews conducted between 1982 and 2009 indicate a potential 27-year revenue savings of approximately $783.7 million, compared with expenditures of $28.6 million for the Sunset Commission. Based on these estimates, for every dollar spent on the Sunset process, the State has received $27 in return.

Currently this review process is scheduled once every twelve years. I propose changing this to once every six years. In addition, I will seek a 2/3 vote of each House of the Legislature for an agency to be renewed. These changes in the Sunset Act are designed to speed up the transfer to the private sector of well-meant programs that have not proven themselves and, just as importantly, to help facilitate the elimination of those designed to favor special interests. Pruning State agencies that don't work well will enable us to lower State taxes while still ensuring that the basic needs of all Texans are met.

Back in 1928, Herbert Hoover's campaign used what has become over the years a very famous quote -- but you can rest assured that a Poultry Improvement Board is not needed to provide "A chicken in every pot."

(In the days ahead there will be additional postings related to how we can lower taxes in Texas. Be sure to check back often.)

Government is the last resort.

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